I am not a patient person. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I consider myself to be one of the most impatient people I know. If I start an exercise routine, I expect to see results the next day, or sooner. When I pray, I often do so with one eye half-open, as if to watch for some sort of lightning bolt answer that might come down from heaven right there on the spot. I don’t like to wait. Ever. Or, almost ever. There is one exception to my inability to sit still and let things unfold as they should, and that one exception is Advent.
As others spin with frantic holiday energy — buying gifts, baking cookies, singing carols, decorating trees — I am quite content to ignore it all and simply wait. Which kind of makes the rest of my family a little crazy. They want singing Santas and twinkling lights, but our house is decidedly unfestive at this point. If you were to stop by, you might even wonder if we plan to celebrate Christmas at all, so barren are our table tops and windows and walls. The only signs of the season are Advent signs: a wreath on the kitchen table, a purple and pink paper chain hanging from a window, the Advent calendar on the hearth, and a little Advent tree that my grandmother gave me. There’s something beautiful about the starkness of it all amid the abundance of Christmas that is so obvious everywhere else. And, despite my usual impatience, I have to admit that there’s something wonderful about the anticipation that continues to build every day, that expectant feeling that recognizes that something amazing is just around the corner but the time is not quite right, our spirits not quite ripe.
I find that my willingness to wait becomes stronger with every passing year, much like my love for the Advent season itself. When I was young, I didn’t feel a connection to the Advent season. I used to say I was a Lent person, always more comfortable in the desert than in the midst of a party. But then slowly, slowly, slowly I began to “get” Advent, which is a desert experience of a very different kind. Silence and darkness, waiting and watching, surrender and trust. This, too, is a time to pull away from the rest of the world and retreat to a quiet place where God might get a word in edgewise.
Of course, some of my pre-Christmas patience has a practical side as well. If I put up the tree on December 1, I know I’d be tired of it long before the big day finally arrived. And the last thing I want is to be ready to leave the party before the guest of honor arrives. Waiting makes the tree and all the trimmings seem that much more special to me, and I’m hoping that the feeling is beginning to trickle down to the kids.
This morning, when I said we’d probably put up the tree next weekend, Olivia jumped for joy. When I offered to put a few little snowmen decorations out after school today, Chiara could barely contain herself. Excitement is building little by little as we inch toward the main event, trying ever so hard to keep our focus on the constant light of Jesus and not on all those twinkling, temporary flashes around us.
Patient waiting…a pregnant pause, full of expectant joy, much a like a mother waiting for labor to begin. We are growing more ripe each day, more ready for what is to come. In the crisp, cold air we feel a warm glow that burns stronger and stronger each day, as our hearts cry out, Maranatha, “Our Lord, come.”