“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalms 27:14
“Why can’t we buy a Christmas tree first, and then make the Advent wreath?!” insisted my 7-year-old daughter this past weekend. Who could blame her? The idea of making an Advent wreathe sounds way less exciting than pulling out that much-beloved Christmas bin and revisiting our favorite tree ornaments, retelling the story of each as we drape them on the branches. The sooner the tree is decorated and lit, the sooner it feels that Christmas is here – not to mention that now there’s a place for all those presents to go.
I get it. I remember what it was like when I was a kid. Maybe you do too. Even as a pastor’s kid, Advent always felt like an unwelcome waiting period, especially when we had to endure my father’s extra-long prayers around the Advent wreath each night. Christmas couldn’t have possibly come soon enough each year. It wasn’t until I was older, however, that I began to truly appreciate the counter-cultural nature of Advent. In general, waiting is not something that our culture does very well. We are constantly bombarded by messages that reinforce the value of instant gratification; and if you can’t have something now, then start looking elsewhere. Intellectually, we talk about the importance of process, but deep down, most of us can’t wait until those periods of waiting in our lives are over. We strongly favor resolution over process: Resolution to our desires, aspirations, dreams, ailments, and whatever else we might be waiting for (or waiting to get done with). In this sense, metaphorically speaking, Christmas is much more exciting than Advent. And yet every year at this time, our Christian tradition gently reminds us to find deep spiritual meaning in the waiting.
How can this Advent season speak to your waiting? Where in your life could you use the opportunity to pause and welcome some awareness of the longing within you?