During the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with our two-year old grandson, Wilder. As we cuddled and played, I was reminded of how quickly the attention of a very small child skips from one thing to another. A treasured book would catch his attention and he’d scurry over to me, already climbing into my lap and enthusiastically repeating, “Read book! Read book”. I found it best to read each book expeditiously, however, lest he slide off my lap before the end of the story, turning to play with his tiny toy cars or assemble his puzzles. And woe to those who mention a favorite food before it is ready to be set before him. This charming little toddler suddenly turns into a broken record, “Waffles! Waffles! Waffles!.”
In time he will learn to be more patient, something I continue to struggle with, even as I approach my eighth decade. Waiting has never been my strong suit; impatience is my Achilles’ heel. This is one of the reasons I love the season of Advent. For while Advent requires us to wait and be patient, it does so in an all-embracing manner that nudges us gradually and pleasantly from reflective anticipation to outright joyfulness and ultimate peace. As Advent greens and candles are assembled, the scents of balsam and warm wax elicit fond memories of Advents, people and places past. The lighting of the four Advent candles – Hope, Love, Joy, Peace – brings us into community with family, friends and fellow worshippers and encouragingly marks steady progress toward Christmas Day. Don’t worry. We’re almost there. Knowing with certainty that Christ will come heightens our eagerness and anticipation; it also softens the sting of waiting.
All waiting, of course, does not happen in such optimal conditions. Often in life we wait with anxiety for an outcome yet unknown or for an end point we dearly wish to avoid. Even when the stakes aren’t high, hurrying up to “get things over with” can create tensions that refuel a continuing cycle of impatience.
I believe there are lessons to be learned for impatient people like myself from the manner in which we wait during Advent. We wait in hope, appreciating these precious days. We wait in love – remembering those we love, considering a small gift that will give them pleasure, and recalling the many ways in which they show their love for us. We exult in the joy each day holds, if only we are patient enough to look for it. We wait in peace, for the Holy Spirit – Love’s Own Self – will come.
Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, Deacon