Jan. 6 was not only the first Sunday in the New Year. It was also Epiphany Sunday - the "12th day of Christmas" and the official end of the Christmas season on the Church's liturgical calendar.
This Sunday usually honors the Wise Men, since it celebrates Jesus "appearing" (the meaning of the word "epiphany") to all the nations as represented by the Magi.
But in light of the events of last year, I found myself thinking less about Wise Men and camels and more about the uncertainty of what we may see come to pass in this new year. What is going to happen? Obviously, one can only wait and see.
But most people don't like to wait.
If you are like me, whenever you are in a store and ready to check out, you try to pick the shortest line. You want to get through and be on your way. Of course, that is always the line that gets held up by a price check or waiting for a supervisor to OK a purchase or for the clerk to change the tape in the machine. It is not easy to wait.
This is an impatient age. Ours is the age of the express lane, of instant coffee, instant cocoa, instant tea and drive-through banking. We are a generation in a hurry but with no idea where we are going. One comedian has quipped "I need to take lessons in patience. Do you know where I can take a crash course?"
Sometimes we even get impatient with God! We want God to act, and we want Him to act now.
Perhaps we need to learn to wait.
It takes humility and patience to wait.
When we wait, we admit there are some things that are not under our control. Most of us like to believe we are masters of our destinies. If we work hard enough, if we are sufficiently prepared, if we just concentrate, we can make life work. And we can. To a point. There are some things, however, that can't be hurried: A young person learning responsibility, recuperation from surgery, the grief process.
Shakespeare put it like this, "How poor are they that have no patience. What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"
Children are often more patient than grown-ups.
The story is told of how a saleslady in a department store noticed a little boy standing all alone at the bottom of the escalato0r. He kept staring intently at the escalator, especially the handrail. Worried, the saleslady walked over and asked him, "Young man, are you lost?" "Nope," he replied. "I'm just waiting for my chewing gum to come back."
It also takes faith to wait.
Faith is the conviction that there is One who is in control, whose nature is love.
Sometimes that is a faint point to hold on to. Fatigue and depression and desperation trigger the little voices that say, "Forget it," "Throw in the towel," "Give up," "It's no use." Then we need to remember the words of the psalmist: "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." (Ps. 37:4,5)
So don't panic. Give God a chance to help. Be patient and learn to wait a while.
And remember the words of Isaiah: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
So we wait -- and watch -- and work.
We look back on the old year, still shaken by what we have seen and experienced. We look forward, into the new year, wondering what it will bring, good or bad. No doubt it will be some of both. We look forward wondering in what settings, in what events, in which persons will we discern the hand of God at work, or the voice of God speaking to us.
Such waiting requires humility, patience and faith simply to persevere. We recognize there are some things in life we can't control, but we also believe there is Someone who can -- and will.
And so we wait.
Ron Covey is pastor of Douglas Community United Methodist Church.