Growing up on a farm in east middle Georgia during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s did not offer a lot of entertainment alternatives for a child. My family were members of a small Methodist church in a small town. The church had a tradition of the members drawing names in early January and you became the “secret pal” of the person whose name you drew. "Secret pal” then would give small gifts at various times during the year such as birthdays, holidays, or special occasions. As a young child, one looked forward to Christmas each year as a Christmas party was held the last Sunday before Christmas Day. Under the Christmas tree would be the final gift from your “secret pal” and with their name on the gift. I can remember the excitement of waiting for the Christmas party to find out who my “secret pal” was.
In my senior year in high school, one day in the spring - I don’t remember the exact month - my math teacher, who was very strict, stopped me on the way out of her class and told me to have my father come see her on Saturday. That is all she said. I was almost shaking in my shoes trying to figure out why she wanted to see my father. I told my father and was a nervous wreck waiting for Saturday morning. When the time arrived my father took me to see her, and she looked at him and said “Luther, this boy needs to go to college.” Nothing had been said about college in my family, and I was shocked. Well, I did go to the University of Georgia that fall.
The Saturday before Easter, 1965, I was sitting in a small room on the lower level of the First Methodist Church in Newnan, Georgia, waiting to go up to the sanctuary. You talk about being nervous, I was. My bride-to-be was somewhere getting ready to walk down the aisle, and we were to start our new life together. My cousin, who was to be best man, was sick and his brother was standing in for him. He was not much help. I will not forget that time.
A snowy night in January, 1968, I was at Emory University Hospital sitting in a room all by myself waiting for our first child to come into the world. What do you do for several hours but think of all the things that can go wrong? Finally I got up and walked out into the hall and saw our doctor come down the hall holding a bundle in his arms. He stopped and said “Do you want to see your daughter?” That is excitement.
One Saturday morning, I was at home when the telephone rang. I answered and a voice said “The Governor wants to talk to you.” I knew something was not right when the Governor called on Saturday morning. Waiting for him to come on the line was heart stopping. I had been named “Acting Director” of the Georgia Building Authority at the end of the previous Governor’s term, and the current Governor, after about two years, still had not had me confirmed as Director. The Governor came on the line and told me that he had just walked around the Governor’s Mansion grounds and they were in terrible shape. There was to be a birthday party that afternoon for a previous Governor. He wanted the grounds cleaned up. I called the Grounds Supervisor and we got a crew out there right away. We picked up the limbs and leaves from a storm the night before and planted all the flower beds that were at the end of the winter season. On the way to work Monday morning, I got a call telling me that the Governor wanted to see me in his office. I went straight there and sat in his reception room waiting for the news that I was out of a job - I just knew it. When I was finally invited into his office, he was smiling and told me the grounds were beautiful for the party. Then he told me that he had been derelict in not making me Director and he planned to at the next Authority meeting.
In 2000, I attended the Prayer and Bible Conference at Lake Junaluska and went to a workshop on Centering Prayer. This was my first time hearing the term. The speaker told of her practice and how it had impacted her life. She pointed to a friend in the back of the room and asked her to tell what changes she had seen in the speaker’s life. The friend told us that there had been a significant change in her friend’s life after she started practicing Centering Prayer. I learned that there was a group at a local Episcopal church and went to join them. So, what does this have to do with waiting? The prayer practice calls for one to sit in silence for twenty minutes, to give your intent and your consent for God to work within, to wait as thoughts come and go without becoming involved. It is a practice of letting go and letting God that will carry over into your daily life. And then you wait for the changes that will come by letting God become part of your life.
So Advent is a period of waiting. Waiting for what? It depends on whether one is Mary, Joseph, the babe in the womb (Elizabeth’s), an angel, a shepherd, a Magi, a king, or one waiting to be part of the mystery.