Waiting in Hope

In the weeks running up to Christmas, our friends at KLFM,  our wonderful local radio station, go round the primary schools of West Norfolk to record the children singing how many sleeps there are until Christmas. It’s lovely:

16 sleeps to go,

16 sleeps til Santa,

16 sleeps til the big happy fella,

comes down your chimney

and leaves you presents

and drinks your milk

16 sleeps to Santa

When you are a child, it seems like an eternity until Christmas comes. Just hink how unbearable it would be if children didn’t know when Christmas would be or how long they had to wait. It would make the waiting all the harder. 

It can be very hard to have to wait. Patience is a virtue which not all of us are blessed with. And now we find ourselves waiting to return to our usual life, but we do not know how long we have to wait. That is doubly difficult.

We have just kept Holy Week, when the timings of the celebrations are defined: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day. The rising of Jesus from the tomb is acclaimed on the eve of Easter Day. The Easter Vigil, one of the most ancient of services, has to be celebrated after sunset and before sunrise. We do not have to wait long after Good Friday

We are in a very different position to the apostles. They had forgotten the words of Jesus about the Son of Man being raised on the third day. They were not counting the hours, waiting for it to happen. They had no hope. If they were waiting for anything it was with dread of a knock on the door which would mean their own arrest and execution.

However that never comes. There is no knock on the door; but they are astonished as reports start to come through of the rising of Jesus: the tomb is found empty by Peter and the beloved disciple; Mary Magdalene reports that she has seen him in the garden when he called her by name. The news trickles through until it is confirmed by Jesus appearing to all the remaining apostles.

The Queen in her first ever Easter message said that 'Easter is not cancelled, indeed we need Easter as much as ever. The finding of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day, gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this.' 

It is hard for us, as we struggle to comprehend how long these measures will last, how we will bear it, how we will cope with continued confinement. What do we hope for, what do we pray, for us to pass through it? Not to suffer a medical emergency that will take us to hospital? For no harm to befall those we love but cannot be with? That we will not get depressed? All of these are the right stuff of prayer.

But perhaps we should also hope for what we do not yet know and cannot predict, for fresh purpose that we will emerge from this as a more united, thoughtful, caring people; that all the good things we are learning during this time, the shedding of what is unnecessary and worthless will not be forgotten, when we return to normal.

In some languages 'to wait' and 'to hope' is the same word. And to hope is to wait with a sense of exhilaration, with all the excitement of a child waiting and hoping for good things to be given them at Christmas. We must wait patiently, behave obediently and hope expectantly. This will pass, as Her Majesty told us, with the wise assurance of a nonagenarian who has seen so much pass in her lifetime. Her words echo those of St Teresa of Avila:   

 

Let nothing disturb you.

Let nothing frighten you.

All things pass.

God never changes.

Patience surmounts everything.

Whoever has God lacks nothing.

God alone is enough.

 

'We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,' said the Queen, 'as dark as death can be, light and life are greater.'

May the living flame of the Easter hope indeed be a steady guide as we face the future.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, Alleluia!