Waiting is not something we seek out in this 21st-century, instant-gratification world of fast food and multitasking and instant streaming movies. It's something we complain about, or at best, tolerate; a sometimes necessary evil. But it's not something we choose. And yet, God often calls us to wait, if we're listening.
I am not blessed with patience, but all the greatest blessings in my life are things I had to wait for. Things that came not on my schedule, but on God's. My husband, for example, whom I met at the ripe old age of 27, not in college when I thought I should (but boy would marrying my college boyfriend have been a disaster - a path I was on until God whacked me upside the head with a painful epiphany that even I couldn't miss). Or take Rapunzel, who took 2 years longer to conceive than I had in mind. She was worth the wait...
Advent is a season dedicated to waiting, waiting for Christ to be born again. It's pretty easy to lose that in the clamor of Christmas: shopping and decorating and parties and baking cookies and sending cards. It's not that thinking of our loved ones with gifts or cookies, that making our homes festive, are bad things, but it's easy to use them to distract ourselves from the waiting.
A few years ago, I resolved to try to do all my Christmas shopping before Advent, in that often short space between Thanksgiving (before which I have a hard time thinking about Christmas) and the first Sunday of Advent. This year, the calendar obliged me by stretching that usually 2-day window to 9 days. I don't usually get it all done, but I do usually get most of it done.
And still I find it hard to be with the expectation, the waiting. I tend to picture that as sitting somewhere by myself, quiet, waiting. A sort of meditation, which I have never been good at. And how do I reconcile that with all the school functions and work functions and parties and other activities that vie for our attention and participation at this time of year? I always think, "I must cut some of these out," but they all have value, too: a birthday party for old friends, a middle school band concert, taking a friend and her daughter to the library, then making cookies with them. Which of these would I eliminate?
And then, as I struggled with this, the confession this morning in church went like this:
We confess, Surprising God, that our sense of anticipation has been dulled.That resonated so hard that I felt like I was actually vibrating (thanks for the wake up call, God...)
We have ceased to expect wonders from your hand.
We miss the marvels around us in the people and happenings we view as commonplace.
We are not alert to your presence or your action on our behalf.
Wake us up, God, lest sleep be our death.
Forgive and redeem us, that we may escape the judgment we are bringing on ourselves.
Send your light that it may shine through us into a needy world.
So instead of trying to cut back on the annual December activities, I resolve today instead to marvel at the commonplace, to be alert to God's presence. To be in those events, in the moment, as completely as I can, to connect with the people in my life who are sharing those events. To be fully present and not thinking ahead to the next event, the next activity. I resolve to be here, now, in this space and time and to be open to whatever gifts that has to offer, to let God's light shine through me and to see it shining through others.
My Advent wish for all of you is to be able to do the same, whatever your beliefs: to marvel at the commonplace, to connect, to be present, to be the light and to see the light in others. Peace be with you.