I’m not very good at waiting. Long lines at the grocery store make me impatient. Waiting in heavy traffic, or for a phone call, or walking the dog when she wants to stop every few feet to smell a bush or the ground tries my patience. But I’ve learned to get a little better at waiting over the years. As we age, Elizabeth Taylor once said, “…the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
As a young girl waiting for Christmas and Santa to arrive with all the presents and the magic that surrounds the season was doubly hard for me. You see my birthday is December 24th, so Christmastime was the only time in the whole year I received gifts. I got so excited in anticipation of the birthday/Christmas festivities that I made myself sick and would often miss the last day of school before the Christmas break, and the party at school!
In recent years I’ve been waiting for my son, now in his 40’s and my only child, to start a family. I wanted to be a grandmother. In April of this year, during the height of the first wave of the Coronavirus crisis in New York City, when hospitals were overwhelmed, my first grandchild was born in Manhattan. Because of the pandemic I had to cancel my travel plans to New York and wait some more before I could meet my new grandson.
This whole year of 2020 has been a year of waiting. As we have done our best to stay home, wear masks when out, wash our hands for 20 seconds, we’ve waited at first for what we thought would be 2-3 weeks for the lockdown to end. Then it became months and months. Now we wait for a vaccine, and then we will wait some more for enough people to get vaccinated to feel safe leaving our homes and hugging our loved ones.
It’s been a trying, sad and long year, challenging to say the least, grief -filled for all we’ve lost as a people around the globe. We wait for relief.
We are in the season of Advent, the 4 weeks before Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming; arrival.” This year Advent seems like an especially appropriate word and time for sitting and reflecting on life and what the arrival of Christ in our individual lives means right now.
But the truth is we already have a source of strength with us right now. We have Christ with us now; we don’t have to wait for Christmas Day. We celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December, and right here, right now God is with us. If we stay focused on what is right in front of us, stay in the present moment, we can sense God’s sustaining presence with us. This present moment is all we have really, and in this moment, God is with us, loving us right now.
I’m much older than that little girl who couldn’t wait for Christmas to come, and I know that Christmas is not about the gifts we receive that day. I value the season of Advent for its reminder that waiting is a time for prayer and reflection on what is most important in life. It’s about the coming of light to the world, the presence of God embodied in Jesus to bring peace, love, justice and joy for all people.
If you are tired of waiting or get too anxious about what is to come, or what has been, you might light a candle, sit down, feel your feet on the floor beneath you, the chair supporting you, take several slow deep breaths, relax your body and be conscious of God’s presence with you, right here, right now, in the midst of whatever else is going on.
Being in the present moment with God makes me more patient, more compassionate, more hopeful, and more available to others. The love and presence of God with us, Emmanuel, is something to celebrate. And we don’t have to wait for it. [Linda is a retired United Methodist pastor and a trained Spiritual Companion. Her website is: www.lmkelly.com.]