Watching and Waiting, Holy Saturday 2015

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for Holy Saturday, 1979 Book of Common Prayer)

Our three-year old loves to sit and wait in our front window for the arrival of his momma, his grandparents or any other expected visitor; it is truly one of the most tender things I’ve seen him do. His level of excitement at the task of simply waiting is only topped by the pure joy of greeting his (our) guests. When a car pulls into the driveway, he runs from the front door with arms wide open and a heart-warming smile on his face.

This morning I am watching and waiting. I am mourning and hopeful. I am waiting like my son.

Holy Saturday causes us to slow down and wait. Whether you’re part of a liturgical church or not, chances are that you’re waiting for Easter in some form or fashion. Some waiting is more passive, some filled with sorrow, some overflowing with expectation. The act of waiting always has a purpose. It always has a reason.

How are you waiting today?

On this day two thousand years ago, Mary the Mother of our Lord and the disciples were waiting. They did not know that for which they were waiting, but they were waiting nonetheless. Their waiting was a form of grieving, of mourning, of sacred sorrow. I have to think that some of their waiting was for the events of Friday to be undone, a waiting for things to be made right, a waiting for the nightmare to end.

We cannot escape the emptiness of Holy Saturday as we await Easter, nor should we.

Today I’m reminded of the Father in Luke 15 who waited for his lost son. The text makes it clear that the Father had been watching and waiting for the return of his beloved. While his son was still a long way off in the distance, he spotted him and ran to him. He was actively waiting.

Today I’m thinking of Jesus’ many parables in which he instructs his followers to be attentive, vigilant and ready for the return of the King. Those who are careless in their waiting will burn through their oil before they can go and greet the bridegroom, but those who have been attentive will be able to find him in the dark.

Today I’m singing with Martin Luther with the words of his hymn composed from Psalm 130: “What though I wait the live-long night, And til the dawn appeareth, My heart still trusteth in His might; It doubteth not nor feareth; Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed, Ye of the Spirit born indeed; And wait til God appeareth.” The NRSV version of Psalm 130 recounts an active waiting that is more “than those who watch for the morning.” This song is full of yearning, of longing, of an anticipation that the night will end and the eternal sun will shine.

Today I am actively waiting for the joy of Easter morning after the deep darkness of Good Friday, but I cannot have one without the other. On this day, even on this side of the Cross, we are caught between the “live-long night” and the appearance of the dawn. New light is about to break upon the horizon and we can wait with hopeful expectation because we know how the story ends, but we cannot move too quickly past Mary and the band of disciples in mourning.

My son’s active watching and waiting is composed purely of joyful expectation. My waiting today is double-minded; it is the combination of grief and joy, of pain and hope, of love poured out and love made new.

Would you join me in waiting and watching today? Would you join me in an active waiting that is a form of mourning as we watch for the Morning? Hold in beautiful tension the sad quietness of that first Holy Saturday with the triumphant and victorious celebration of Easter.

Let us wait together with Mary and disciples.

Let us watch together with joyful expectation.

And let us run to greet the Risen Lord tomorrow with arms wide open.