Are you ‘waiting’ or ‘welcoming’?

In welcoming, we actively participate in three main tasks: making time, making space for the coming of something beautiful and life-giving, and making ourselves or the place presentable for what or who we are anticipating.

Dec 17, 2021


By Nicholas Lye

Advent is known as a season of waiting. Yet is waiting a passive, stationary act of counting the days before something good or better happens, or is there something more to it?

Recently, as part of my involvement in the ICPE School of Mission Sabah, a four-month Catholic programme to form missionary disciples, I had the privilege of setting up a community house to provide a live-in community experience for our school participants. Initially, when I first stepped into the house that was providentially provided for our purpose, it only contained the bare essentials. It took me some time to clean up the place, obtain the necessary household items, and create a welcoming and hospitable environment for a two-month stay. When the day finally arrived to welcome our participants to the house, it filled me with great delight to see them in person, and to eventually enjoy their company for the next two months.

Reflecting on the above helped me appreciate Advent not only as a season of waiting, but also as a season of welcoming. In welcoming, we actively participate in three main tasks: making time, making space for the coming of something beautiful and life-giving, and making ourselves or the place presentable for what or who we are anticipating.

From the time of the Annunciation, Mother Mary was not simply given the invitation to wait for the birth of her Son, Jesus Christ. She was given the privilege to welcome Christ into her womb, and into the world. For that to take place, she chose to put aside all her previous plans to make time and prepare for the birth of her child. Mary also made space — not only in her womb, but in her heart, to welcome and embrace God’s invitation and plan amidst much fear and confusion as to how it was going to work out, given her circumstances. Most of all, Mary was made presentable by her Immaculate Conception, to become a worthy vessel for Christ, as well as a willing handmaid of the Lord.

What might this mean for us, as we prepare for the coming of Christ, not only at Christmas, but throughout the rest of our lives? Do we simply wait passively for better things to come in times of challenges? Or might we learn to actively welcome the Lord and His greater plans for us, by making time and space in our hearts and lives, and making ourselves presentable for the active will of God to be carried out in and through us?

Some years ago, after completing eight years of seminary formation, waiting excitedly for the day of my ordination and a lifetime of service to the Church as a priest, God unexpectedly invited me to take a sabbatical and put my plans for ordination on hold. It caught me by surprise, and initially filled me with much fear and confusion. Still, I trusted in the Lord and proceeded to take a year’s sabbatical. At first, every day felt like an unnerving and impatient waiting for God to show me something, to give me more clarity as to what this was all about. Yet, over time, I gradually learnt to turn my waiting into welcoming.

It began with making time, one year that later turned into two years, where I chose to put aside all my previous plans and give this time to God to do whatever He willed. It also involved making space in my heart and life to welcome and embrace God’s latest invitation and plan, even though it was not easy to suddenly feel ‘useless’ and ‘empty’, being seemingly stripped of my title as seminarian for the time being. It was not until much later that I eventually realised what God was really doing for me, making me presentable for something different, making me PRESENTABLE for the true work and mission He was preparing me for all along.

You see, all this time, I had believed that I was only as good as what I could do; I could not see that I was a gift, just as I am. Yet, during my sabbatical, God helped me learn the truth - that I could be ‘useless’ and still be precious, that my worth was dependent not on what I could do, but on who I really am. It was also during this time that I began to discover the greater gift within me — to use creativity to help others encounter God and discover more about themselves. This was the PRESENT within me that God was enabling me to be, which has led me to now choosing the path of a lay missionary and creative evangelist, bringing God to others through art and creativity.

When we learn how to welcome beyond mere waiting, we not only make more time and space for the Lord to enter our lives, we also allow Him to make ourselves PRESENTABLE, to become more of our true, amazing selves meant to be a beautiful and precious gift and PRESENT to the world. How are you welcoming the Lord this Advent?

--Nicholas is a creative evangelist and lay missionary whose mission is to create Kingdom spaces for the re-creation of people’s identity, relationship with God and others, and personal mission through authenticity, beauty and creativity.

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