Kriss: Waiting with a smartphone during Advent

Dec 4, 2017 by

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Advent is about waiting. The two most celebrated portions of the church year, Lent and Advent, both feature a similar framework of preparing and waiting. In Spanish, the verb for waiting (esperar) has the same root as the word for hope — esperanza. Waiting means anticipation of something impending.

Stephen Kriss


Waiting has been transformed for me with the advent of smartphones. Now I rarely have the space and time to be unoccupied. My phone provides ready entertainment and distraction if I’m forced to wait. As an urban person, I used to carry a book or magazine for those periods of planned or unexpected waiting. These days I peruse social media or listen to music, respond to emails or send text messages. My waiting times are easily and readily occupied.

The confines of waiting spaces used to draw me more often toward conversation with people. Other times I would evaluate the intricacies of the space where I was waiting, noticing colors, patterns and contexts with more acumen than my preoccupied self notices with a smartphone in hand.

The advantage of having a smartphone is that I’m hardly ever bored. The virtual world is at my fingerprints as long as my battery has a charge. I hardly mind waiting, and my electronic diversion creeps into times when I don’t need to focus on the calls, messages and alerts.

I do my best to limit, but my Pavlovian, dopamine-provoked response sometimes gets the best of me. I’m overly responsive to the goings on of the world beyond where I’m attempting to be present in real time and space.

With all of this distraction, sometimes I’m caught up in the waiting space itself. Busy enough not to wonder if the waiting will end. Social media posts. Emails. New York Times news alerts. Texts that remind me of the weekend sale at JCPenney.

But also in the mix, morning texts from my dad, evening texts from my mom. Facebook messages from people I love in Kurdistan and England. Colleague check-ins from the Philippines, Mexico and Indonesia. This waiting means being occupied also by the important things of life that my phone serves to connect me with, breaking through the limits of time and distance.

Sometimes the calls and communication are reminders of places where I hope Jesus will again show up, where hope needs to be birthed once more. There are so many complex situations these days that I find myself often beyond words.

The global connectivity of my smartphone this Advent keeps me aware but can also be overwhelming. Advent cannot be fulfilled soon enough. The incarnating and inbreaking of God into our own space and time has too often already felt long delayed.

I’m distracted by so many things. But at times in those distractions, I’m more aware of what we are actually waiting to embrace — the renewal of life that comes with the fullness of salvation.

In the meantime, I wait. I text. I watch. I pray. I read. And while I’m waiting again, I remember the story of angels declaring a divine intervention to shepherds and probably sheep in the field — on earth peace and goodness to all. I wait, that a news alert might suggest on my phone or to my soul, that Christ has again come, that peace prevails, that hope is born anew.

Stephen Kriss is a teacher, writer, pastor and follower of Jesus living in Philadelphia.

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