Advent is a time of waiting. But not all kinds of waiting are alike. In Advent, we wait in a special way.
1. Advent waiting is expectant.
Many years ago, when I was expecting my first child, I felt a deep connection to Mary in the Nativity stories. As I noticed my stomach beginning to swell, awaited feeling the first kicks, and wondered what it would mean to become a mother, I waited with an expectation of something beautiful ahead. I did not know exactly what to expect and could not possibly have anticipated the way that motherhood would turn my life upside down in a most wonderful way. This experience helps me to think about expectation in Advent. I wait expectantly for the Christ Child to come again, but I do not know the form that the appearance will take. I wait with an anticipation that it will be something wonderful and maybe surprising. Will it be a gift in prayer? A moment holding a real baby? An encounter with family or friends where we know Christ is present among us? Only God knows.
2. Advent waiting requires making space.
Although the main action in Advent is God’s, I have my part to do too. I am not waiting passively for God to act. Rather, I have to make room for God’s action to be something that I can welcome, something that I can pay attention to when it happens. Here the images of the inn and stable are helpful. There was no room at the inn for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, because it was too full. The stable was poor and simple but had space for them to take shelter. Is my heart open to God? What are the superficial concerns or worries to let go, in order to make room for Jesus to come again this Christmas? Is my life too rushed and busy with holiday preparations, or am I building in time to make space for the Christ Child?
3. Advent waiting is hopeful.
As this part of the world moves deeper into winter, I can find the shortened days and longer nights to be, well, dark and sometimes aching. John’s Gospel, though, tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). God has already given us the one who loves, redeems, and heals the world. Indeed, for us, unlike for Mary and Joseph, Jesus has already come into the world. We have the experience of the entire Church community who has encountered the living Christ before us to give us hope. We also have our own individual past experiences of where God has been present. God’s light and love always shine through whatever kinds of darkness that we might encounter: illness, grief, injustice, worries about work or relationships, spiritual aridity or darkness. So, we wait with hope. We wait with one another and not alone.
What images or stories help you to name the experience of Advent waiting?