Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

In the past few weeks, I have used this excerpt from Henry Nouwen’s ‘Waiting for God’ to open a number of meetings– it really strikes a chord for me in this season of Advent and week of Chanukah, both of which focus our attention, in different ways, on waiting:

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Some what I think are weeds dressing up in Christmas colors

“Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something…

In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid—afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. Fearful people have a hard time waiting, because when we are afraid we want to get away from where we are.  People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes. That is why waiting is such an unpopular attitude for many people.”

As we listen to Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from our country, as we face mass shootings, and threats of terrorism (much more so from White Christian extremists than Brown Muslim extremists),  one of the things I think our UU church is called to do is focus on ways we bring calm and peace to ourselves and to each other, within our church walls and beyond.  In other words, don’t just do something, stand there!

This Sunday in our multigenerational worship, we will embody this message of peace and community: in the 9:30 am service, we will do a participatory reading of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. At the 11am service, we will do a pageant of Margaret Brown’s Christmas in the Barn.


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