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Waiting

To enable pupils to understand that in the context of an impatient society waiting is an important part of faith and life.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To enable pupils to understand that – in the context of an impatient society – waiting is an important part of faith and life.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to play the Samsung commercial that has as its punch line, ‘Impatience is a virtue’. It can be downloaded from YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8tWLEsLpxs
  • It would be useful to have a copy of the song ‘I want it all’ by Queen.
  • The Bible reading is Luke 2.25–32.

Assembly

  1. Play about a minute of ‘I want it all’ by Queen, followed by the Samsung commercial.

    ‘I want it all, and I want it now’ and ‘Impatience is a virtue’ – these two statements seem to encapsulate something which is at the very heart of our society: instant gratification. In the Western world of the twenty-first century we want it – and we are not prepared to wait for it. From entertainment, to customer service, to knowledge, to love – we believe it is our right to have it immediately.

    This is reflected in the way the news is conveyed in the media. News these days is less about analysis and more about the instantly breaking headline. We have no time for the complex arguments of long-winded people. We want the one-sentence soundbite, we want to cut to the chase. We have little time to ponder – we’re in a hurry.
  2. Young people seem naturally to revel in the excitement of action and movement. Rightly, you have ambitions and goals. You are keen to move on – move on to the perceived privileges and status of being a teenager or becoming an adult or leaving school. Much of youth seems about being in a hurry.

    You only need watch people in the cars on the roads or on the streets of our cities to get a real sense that we are a society in a hurry (although, of course, a wonderful antidote to that is watching students move between lessons – certainly no sense of urgency there!).
  3. And, indeed, one may ask, ‘What’s wrong with being in a hurry?’ Samsung are surely right when they point out that many of the inventions of the modern age have been driven by our desire to have things quickly: the desire for faster communication is met by the phone and computer, the desire for faster transport is met by the aeroplane, and so on.
  4. Yet if the driving force of our society is our need for the instant gratification of our desires, do we not become slaves to those desires?

    If ‘I want it all, and I want it now’ is to be our philosophy, do we not allow greed to become the dominant force in our lives? 

    And if we are constantly chasing the next material thing – the very latest gadget or fashion accessory – where will it stop? Will we not be condemned to constantly desiring, but never being fulfilled?

    And more than this. To say ‘impatience is a virtue’ is to ignore the fact that the things which we truly need – as opposed to simply desire – cannot be attained instantly. Love, fulfilment, purpose, wisdom, understanding, great achievement – these are not the products of a click of the fingers, a swipe of a credit card or the flick of a switch. These are only attained through courage, endurance – and patience.
  5. At the very heart of the biblical story is the idea of waiting. In Egypt and, later, in Babylon the people of Israel waited centuries for their liberation. 

    At the time of the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah. Indeed, Luke’s Gospel tells us of a man called Simeon who had spent his whole life doing precisely that – waiting. He was waiting for the redemption of Israel. 

    In the reading that we shall hear in a few moments, we are told of Simeon’s joy when he sees the infant Jesus in the temple and knows that the Redeemer he has waited for has finally arrived.
  6. We should remember that waiting is not necessarily passive. The Israelites waited – but of course Moses acted. Waiting should be active. We should be working towards our goals rather than merely passively waiting. 

    However, a mature outlook on life and, indeed, looking at life from the perspective of faith, help us to realize that no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we desire something, there are some things that only come through time. 
  7. In the Christian year, the four weeks before Christmas Day are known as ‘Advent’, a word which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. For Christians, Advent is a time of waiting.

    In Tesco, the Christmas decorations went up in October – a further symbol of our impatient, consumerist society. But instead of trying to experience Christmas before it arrives, we should try to use Advent to wait expectantly and prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. We must learn to wait.

Time for reflection

Read ‘The Song of Simeon’ from Luke 2.25–32.

Prayer

Lord, in a world which so often displays impatience and greed,

grant us grace that we might have patience and humility

to wait for your will to unfold.

Give us the wisdom to know the time to act

and the time to wait.

Amen.

Music

‘Jesus Christ is waiting’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 340).

‘I want it all’ by Queen

Publication date: November 2011   (Vol.13 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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