Almost three years ago I sent a manuscript to a publisher. As months passed, I often wondered what was happening to the book. Then last week I was e-mailed the final copy before it goes to the printer. The book is outstanding. I e-mailed back that “it was worth the wait.” We’re in Advent, the season of waiting, waiting for God, and surely it is worth the wait. We Americans don’t like to wait. We find red lights, long lines at the checkout counter, and lengthy downloads frustrating. But as poet R.J. Thomas observed, “The meaning is in the waiting.”
The Israelites waited centuries for salvation from Egypt. They waited centuries for salvation by the Messiah. Now we await the Messiah’s second coming at the end of time. Bombarded with bad news from around the globe, we might feel like praying with the psalmist, “How long, O God?” (Ps. 13) before we enjoy your kingdom of peace and justice. But remember that Scripture says that a thousand years are as a single day to the eternal God. (Ps. 90) The Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin encouraged us to “trust in the slow work of God.” So during Advent we are “eagerly waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Cor. 1:7). But apparently we need to “wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).
How do we find meaning in our Advent waiting? We can wait like Mary did. As any expectant mother, she went about preparing for her newborn son, sewing baby blankets and clothes, and preparing for how she would act as a mother. We can prepare gifts for others and prepare our houses for hosting Christmas gatherings, and most of all we can prepare ourselves for welcoming our Savior. Mary’s heart must have been filled with awe and gratitude for the great mystery she shared in. Her days must have been drenched in prayer. We can spend extra time in pondering the wonder of salvation in prayer. While pregnant, Mary hurried to help her older cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy, about a 90-mile journey. We can assist those in need more than usual.
So what are we waiting for? As we “await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” let’s make our Advent a season not only of anticipation, but of preparation, prayer, and presents for the poor. Then let us extend these practices after Advent, for as Thomas Merton pointed out, “Life is a perpetual Advent”!
What does Advent mean to you?