Who likes to wait? Not me, I can tell you that for sure. I want my answers, my results, my dinner and my coffee and I want it five minutes ago. Patience isn’t something that comes easily for most people.
This past Sunday marked the first Sunday of the season of Advent, the beginning of the church year. You might recognize the term “advent” from the little cardboard calendars that give you a piece of candy every day during the month of December. But Advent is much more than candy. This four-week season leading up to Christmas dates back as far as the 8th century and focuses on the coming of Christ, both in the celebration of the Nativity and in the anticipation of the coming reign of Christ. The word advent literally means “arrival,” and the season is marked by themes of waiting, expecting, anticipating.
I must confess that I find myself pulled in two directions by this brief season. One side of me wants to slow down and detach from the busyness and chaos that inevitably marks the weeks prior to Christmas and to meditate on Christ’s coming to earth and being born in a manger. I want to get all I can out of Christmas by celebrating Christmas during Advent. But technically the focus of Advent is on anticipation itself, the absence of Christ and the desire that he would come and invade our darkness. It’s almost as if we put ourselves in the place of the waiting world in the hours before the angels announced the Savior’s birth.
This forced wait is tricky because we know the Good News: Christ has come and invaded the darkness and shown the light. But there is a “not yet” part to the story as well because it’s also true that Christ has yet to come and apply the fullness of redemption to the hurting world. So we wait.
Now, waiting is no fun I’ll admit, but if we honestly take a look at it we might realize there is some good to it. We live in a culture infatuated with the instant – we love to get everything we want whenever we want it. We all have the friend or relative that is really hard to buy gifts for because they get what they want whenever they want it. They aren’t waiting for anything.
But think about the joy that comes from waiting. When I was young I couldn’t wait for Christmas Morning…then to get out of high school…then out of college…then married…then…the list could go on. It would have been an awful bore to have Christmas every day. I think C. S. Lewis got it right when he said that joy is found in the desire for the thing we long for, no just the thing itself. We actually diminish our joy if we never have to wait.
Have you ever denied yourself something on purpose? This is what the church calls fasting, although it tends to slow things down quite a bit. Saying no to sugar or TV or meat for a while is hard because we want what we want. But oh the sweetness of that steak after the season of waiting.
So let me encourage you to give waiting a chance this Advent season. Don’t rush into the season, pressing your foot so far to the floor that you speed right by all the good stuff. Let waiting be a blessing, knowing that the joy of desire fulfilled is promised to come.