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What Are You Waiting For?
Heather Grennan Gary

How are you at waiting? Are you able to take it in stride, or does it test your patience?

Several essays in this issue respond to recent long-awaited events. Starting on page 10, Chris W. Bonneau, Geoffery Bowden, Jennifer Hora, and David Lott take a closer look at the outcome of the U.S. presidential election—the lead-up to which seemed never-ending. But as long as the election season seemed, it paled in comparison to the wait endured by the Chicago Cubs for the title of World Series champions. On page 18, Thomas C. Willadsen reflects on what the win, 108 years in the making, means for the team’s lifelong fans.

Whether or not you’re a Cubs fan or a Trump enthusiast may be of little import. Regardless of what’s going on in baseball or politics, the truth is that plenty of disappointments, imperfections, and limitations await you (if they are not already troubling you). They come as little, niggling frustrations—maybe, as Josh Langhoff reports in his column, not being able to find a particular Christmas album at your local Christian bookstore (page 38). Or they come as devastating thunderstrokes, as Harold K. Bush describes in his essay on the suffering of bereaved parents (page 28). Many hurts come in a form that’s somewhere between the two extremes, such as the lonely emptiness that can descend in the cold, dark days and weeks after Christmas Day, as Cara Strickland mentions in her essay on the Twelfth Night of Christmas (page 24).

Sometimes we can do things that will improve the situation. Often our actions can usher in a new, better reality for ourselves and others. Joel Kurz touches on this in his review of A. Trevor Sutton’s book, Being Lutheran (page 42). Yet we know that not every problem can be solved; not every pain can be alleviated. In those instances, our most pressing task may be to wait, to reflect, and to long for what seems, in the moment, patently unattainable.

In his sermon for December 2, 1928, Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached, “Not all can wait—certainly not those who are satisfied, contented, and feel that they live in the best of all possible worlds! Those who learn to wait are uneasy about their way of life, but yet have seen a vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfillment. The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

We are part of a long tradition of impoverished, imperfect, and troubled souls. As proof, take a look at O. P. Kretzmann’s essay, “Bethlehem and 1941,” which originally appeared in the Cresset seventy-five years ago, and which we are revisiting in this issue (page 54). Much of what Kretzmann writes could in fact have been written today: trains still pass through Valparaiso, the winds still blow, and the shocks of corn in the fields on the edge of town are again white with snow. But just as heartbreakingly current are his allusions to war, fear, hate, and despair. “I have no room and no sympathy for easy optimism now at Christmas, 1941,” Kretzmann writes. “We come to the manger with less than we ever had before.”

May our feelings of dissatisfaction and discontent push us closer to the manger this Christmas season than we have dared in years past. May our unease about our way of life and our recognition that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds kindle our desire for something greater to come. We can do many things to help achieve that vision. But we can also wait, in joyful hope, for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

—HGG

Work Cited
Robertson, Edwin H., ed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.           

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