Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about work, and she and I agreed that we don’t usually think about Christmas until after the semester is over. We’re usually so swamped with grades and nervous students, end of semester meetings, and holiday celebrations that we don’t even think about the holidays. We had the talk, I felt sad for a second, and then I promptly let myself be sucked back into the semester.
Last night, as I walked to my car about 8:30pm, heading home to grade more papers before bed, I saw Christmas lights across the street from the school. They were gaudy – big bulbs mixed with small ones, plastic, lit candles in the yard – but they were also a good reminder – ah, yes, it’s Christmas time. I sighed, breathed deep, smiled, and got in the car.
Then, this morning, I got another reminder of our Season, this celebratory, anticipatory time of year. Dear friends of mine are waiting to hear about an adoption from Ethiopia. They have been waiting, in some form probably, for many years, trying to piece together how God wants to work out their desire for children. But this morning, Julie posted a blog about the season of Advent, the season of “holy waiting,” and I felt the emotion well up in my throat because here, in this note, was what I was missing – waiting, anticipation, patience. I had missed the whole point of the season – that God is coming, not right this minute, but God is coming. I need only wait.
So often in our culture, maybe in all cultures, we want what we want now. We want that perfect date now; we want Christmas now; we want the end of the semester now; we want what we want and we want it now. Like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we are spoiled and think we can demand from our Father anything we desire – “I want it, and I want it now . . . now, now, now.” And we forget the holiness of waiting, the glory of anticipation.
Sometimes I think our desire for things to happen sooner – stores to open at 3am instead of 4 on Black Friday, the email to come this minute, the work day to end a half-hour earlier – comes not because we’re excited about those things but because we want control. We think if we can get our way right now we will have exerted some kind of power over time and matter; we think we have gained a little more control. But of course, we have so little control in general and no control over time at all. We must wait. We can either wait patiently and enjoy the moment. Or we can throw a fit and demand things “now,” only to make ourselves miserable and still get what we’re asking for when it was coming originally.
When I was a kid, my parents used to take my grandmothers out to lunch with us. These were not quick women at the restaurant. My great-grandmother couldn’t see well, so my mother read her the whole menu each time (only to have Grandma Orlance always pick “the scrod” every visit); my grandmother ate slowly and deliberately, extending her time with company for as long as she could. On the first few lunches, my brother and I got impatient as soon as we finished eating. We began to whine and fuss, kicking our legs under the table, pouting. Our parents would always look at us and say, “Be patient.” And eventually, we were. We learned to eat more slowly and enjoy our food; we learned to talk with our grandmothers more; we even learned to just sit still while everyone else ate. And we – or let me just speak for me – I learned to really love those lunches.
Here, in this Season of Advent, I’m relearning how to “be patient.” There is so much in my life that I’m waiting for, and sometimes I get irritable and kick my legs under the table. But the wait is so worth it; I know that. And if I don’t rush myself on to the next thing, perhaps I will learn to appreciate the moment – this Advent season and all it’s glorious Christmas lights – even before I get to what I’m waiting for.
For a great Advent devotional, visit Following the Star. It’s like an Advent Calendar online – beautiful, simple, and daily.