Last year at this time of year I wrote about Advent for Atheists. This Advent I find I’m ruminating on much the same theme and so, here I go…
For Christians, Advent is meant to be a time of preparation, of hope, peace and joy. We are most specifically preparing ourselves for Christmas or perhaps more accurately we are retelling the story of Christ, preparing ourselves once again for the “coming” of Christ into our midst. It is a sacramental time, a waiting place.
We have a specific “waiting” in mind but this doesn’t mean that all people, everywhere, regardless of faith claim are not also waiting for something. It makes me think of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, “Oh the places you’ll go!” I love this one for one section in particular, the part in the book in which the fine Dr details “The Waiting Place.”
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
My kids and I sit and stare at this page all the time. We try to guess what each of these people are doing while they wait, we wonder who is waiting for what. My favorite is the guy in the yellow hood. He’s quite the mystery, that one.
I happen to think the waiting place has a lot to offer us. The nice and yet the tough thing about Advent is that we wait whether we want to or not. We don’t really have a choice in it. Advent is simply an awareness that we are, in fact, waiting. The calendar moves the way it’s going to move. The thing that speeds it up is the busyness we choose. We find things to fill up that time, to make it pass without pain. I’m coming to the conclusion lately that having it pass without pain doesn’t serve me quite as well as I thought it might.
I’m realizing now that medicating the waiting time only leads me to feeling let down, disappointed and angry when all is said and done. I end up with moments of reflection later that start less often with “wasn’t it great when….” and more with”I wish I had…” and that is what I’m working to avoid. Perhaps that’s a good way for us all, Christian or otherwise, to move through seasons of waiting whether they hold religious overtones or not. Perhaps all waiting has a sacred bent to it, an opportunity to practice something important while we wait, something embracing the mystery and the mundane all at the same time. Dr Suess would say that “Everyone is just waiting” but that guy in the yellow hood….he knows there’s more to it than that. I’m with him.