It can be easy to become lethargic in a waiting season and only look at the waiting, to forget we are waiting for or on something. The more whatever or whoever it is means to us, the harder the wait. I wonder what that looks like this season of Advent for us when the world around us has turned upside down and languishes in shadow. The pandemic’s impact lingers two years later and new viruses assault us. The economy shudders and our focus on celebrating gets distracted by these challenges and cares we face and others as well.
When we are waiting on someone or something we value a great deal, the things we always did before the waiting season can diminish in seeming importance as we yearn for what is not yet.
As I begin to bring out Christmas decorations, I recall so many other Christmases. I am sure that is true of you. Some of these are the most precious ones while others are the hardest ones. Living more than a few years will give us samples of both. Some we recall as if we are reliving them all over again.
One of those etched in my memory was one more than 50 years ago during a fourteen-month period when military duty called my husband halfway around the world. While he was away our first child was born and that Christmas should have been such an exciting “first” for us, but my husband’s absence cast a shadow over the season of decorating, shopping, baking, and caroling. My heart was not able to get caught up in all the joy of those things, but I began to shift its focus to it as a time of preparation for the day he would return despite not knowing the exact date.
Yes, we celebrated Christmas and I sent my husband gifts of all sorts including a small Christmas tree and a variety of goodies. Yes, we lavished special things on our son and our extended family did their best to make the season as bright as they could for us. I prepared for that season, but my focus was on the one ahead when he would prayerfully return and our life as a family in one place truly begin.
There have been many hard seasons since then, but every year at Christmas that year so long ago replays in my memory. And this year it reminds me of what I learned about focusing on preparing in the midst of waiting on someone or something more important to me than the Christmas traditions that I love.
If we are truly Advent people, should that not be true of us as well despite the state of the world both near and far, despite the grief we may feel, despite the malaise that threatens to jump right over Christmas for many this year?
Have you considered that we are not the only ones waiting?
“God is always on time. He waits for us at the same time we are waiting for Him. God is the Keeper of the Vision and the Author of what will come next. Rest in knowing He is writing your story and is ready to call you up to prepare the way for others.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
It can be far too easy to forget that He is waiting in our self-focus and wearied waiting. He has been waiting on mankind to turn to Him and discover not only a babe in a manger and soon-coming King, but also to learn that He is a companion to journey with us in the waiting.
Our desire loses sight of the grand story playing out, of the bigger picture that delays his coming. He sees how many have yet to choose Him. He sees we are too often slumbering. He sees too many are not ready despite the words they may say.
“Our compulsive timetables collide with God’s leisurely providence. We tell God not only what to do but when to do it. We take him seriously – why else would we be praying? – but we take ourselves more seriously, telling him exactly what he must do for us and when.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Perhaps in this darker season He is seeking us to awaken from the routine life we are living. Perhaps this year our attention should pivot.
“He continues to teach that we do not know when the Son of Man will come again so we must remain vigilant. The call to stay awake is not always a physical vigilance. God calls us to an awareness that prepares us to dive deeper into relationship with Himself and others, and to better understand ourselves.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
This is a season for not just reading your favorite scriptures about that first Advent or recite prayers reflective of a more casual relationship with the Lord. He longs for more than that. Do we?
“Prayer is never complete and unrelieved solitude; it is, though, carefully protected and skillfully supported intimacy. Prayer is the desire to listen to God firsthand, to speak to God firsthand, and then setting aside the time and making the arrangements to do it.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Yes, it is a different season for many, but it is also a season for each of us that should be different for other reasons than those that come to mind. It will require a choice, a sacrifice of our own disappointment with what is for what will be.
“God loves waking up our sluggish hearts.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
It is not easy to be alert and awake when we are weary, but sometimes we can miss that the weariness can come not only from our own living but also from the evil one who would desire us to stay asleep, sluggishly dozing in a stupor, when the “not yet” is just ahead. Evil wants us to be distracted by the scary shadowy pall it casts over the world and our own neighborhood, but God’s call to us urges something else even as He urged his disciples in the time He was praying before He went to the cross.
What does “awake waiting” look like?
“It’s wearing a sense of watchfulness throughout our lives, and when we do, our Advent lives of waiting are filled with seeing Jesus in our every day ordinary.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
*Photos are from a few places I have decorated in our house as of today. Our daughter made the stockings years ago as a special treat that I still treasure because we had no fireplace growing up and no stockings hung by the tree.