Just moments ago, I sat here in irritated frustration while a colored spinning wheel spun and spun and spun. It must have been 30 seconds or so. An eternity, really, in Internet time. I could barely sit still for the time it took to load a blank page upon which to write.
We don’t wait well, do we? In an age of instant access, we expect everything from information to merchandise to arrive within moments of being summoned. On those rare occasions when we are expected to wait, we feel like we are wasting time. And nobody has time to waste.
Earlier tonight, as I sat in the dark with a sleepy child who did not want to let go of her day, we whispered about Advent.
“It’s almost Christmas,” she said. “We lit the first candle and started the Jesse tree.”
“Christmas is coming,” I agreed. “It’s Advent. But that means we have a whole season of waiting before it’s Christmas. We have these weeks of getting our hearts ready. “
“I love the waiting,” she murmured sleepily. “I love knowing it’s coming. I also love the lights. And the stories. I really love Christmas stories.”
Sarah loves the waiting; she notices the lights. She’s 7, and she sees the value of the season — at least she sees it as well as a 7-year-old can.
There is value in the waiting — real, tangible value. God asked His people to wait for centuries before He fulfilled all His promises with a Baby in a manger. The whole long history of salvation is the story of children being asked to wait. God’s story is a story of waiting, and waiting is good. There is a big difference between joyful waiting and wishing it away.
As we wait, we remember that God is the author, God has the plan and God makes the promises. We trace the tale from the first man to the root of Jesse to the carpenter’s son, and we see that God didn’t hurry and He purposefully filled those days of waiting with centuries of covenantal relationship with His people. There is struggle in the wait and there is triumph in the wait. The waiting has value; it is of great worth.
My 7-year-old loves Advent. She loves the lights and the lists and the anticipation of it all. She loves it, in part, because she knows that this wait will end joyously, so she waits in joyful, expectant, sincere hope. This is going to be good. This is going to be Christmas. The time before the feast? It’s pretty good, too, because it’s not an irritated shifting from one foot to another until it’s our turn in line. Instead, it’s the happy anticipation of a long-awaited birthday party.
But what of the grown-up waiting? Do we trudge impatiently through the waiting time or do we stop and blink in wonder at the lights? Do we sigh and shrug and slouch a little under the weight of the worry that comes with waiting or do we see the value of the season of preparation? Can a grown-up wait in joyful hope? Yes, he can. God wants exactly that for all His children, even the ones with mortgages and mustaches.
We are waiting for Christ. We know He comes. We’ve read the end of this particular story. We can relax into this season, fully assured that our waiting will bring us to Christmas, to the joy of the Infant Jesus.
There is yet another story, though, the story God is still writing in our lives. Even as we know that we will celebrate the birth of the Savior, we observe another Advent. We await Christ’s second coming. As we sweep our houses clean and make all ready for the Christmas feast, so, too, we attend to some spiritual housekeeping. We look upon the covenant that Our Lord has had with His people throughout time, and we attend to our relationship with Him and with the people He has given to our lives.
It’s not Christmas yet. It’s not even the Christmas season yet. It is Advent — time of waiting. These days of waiting are rich with possibility. These are the days into which Our Lord pours His grace in order to heal us, to help us and to transform us into His own image. These days of waiting are not wasted days at all. Resist the urge to hurtle through them. Instead, unwrap the gift of them and redeem every minute.