Another Banksy for Advent… We are used to speaking of this season as a time of waiting. There is a deep emotional resonance in the idea that we long for liberation – as the Hebrew slaves before the Exodus, as the sick and disabled who heard that Jesus was passing by. Waiting is a significant dynamic of faith and it comes to mind more fully in advent than at any other time.
But what if we are not alone in our waiting? What if the longing of our hearts mirrors that in the heart of our maker?
We have so been schooled to think of God as both impassive (above the kinds of feelings and passions we are prone to) and eternal (beyond the realm of time) that we struggle to think of him waiting. Why would God wait for a bus, when he a) knows when the next one is coming anyway and b) can magic one up from thin air if it’s not quick enough? To wait is to need and God, our scholastic catechists tells us, doesn’t need anything.
The mistake in such assertions is the assumption that whatever is possible must therefore be true. Because God is defined as one who is above necessity (and for that matter, beyond time), he therefore cannot need. It doesn’t bother the scholastics that a sentence about the supremacy of God posited on the word ‘cannot’ is a contradiction in terms. What if God wants to need? What if he waits not because he has to but because he chooses to? Like Clark Kent resisting the appeal of the phone box and queuing to board a plane with everybody else, God’s omnipotence surely includes the right to set aside his power?
In this sense the incarnation doesn’t change the nature of God so much as reveal it. The God who chooses to inhabit our humanity, with all the limitations and frustrations this implies, does so because he has always wanted to be close to us. He made a garden not for us alone to live in, but to live in with us. The move from uncreation to creation implies that the earthly realm means something to its maker that the heavenly realm does not. Matter is as more perfect expression of God’s will than non-matter, and time is more attractive to him than eternity. God waits because God likes waiting.
The maker of food is by definition the maker of hunger, and both reflect divine intention.
Jesus came, Paul tells us, when the time was right for him to do so. His birth is as much a symbol of God’s waiting as it is of ours.