Advent reminds me that to wait well is not an easy thing to master. Though I try, I am often swept up in this distracted world. Too often driven by deadlines and the nagging demands of my own impatience. I want what I want now, like a two-year old banging her palms against the tray of her high chair. Given some of the technologies most of us utilize and the ways we have been shaped by them, it’s easy to come to expect instant gratification and to turn our backs on the bigger picture, the long view.
How do we resonate with the kind of sweeping and certain anticipation of the coming Messiah that permeated the lives and minds of our earliest brethren, people who spent lifetimes in waiting? Advent traditions—lighting the Advent wreath, candle by candle, or leaving the manger cradle empty until Christmas Eve—present profound opportunities to revisit the full meaning of Christian anticipation. It takes courage to wait in joyful hope, and it requires that we prepare ourselves for the coming Christ. Our desire to renew an interior posture must prevail throughout the Christian life: to wait on the Lord.
To ask how well we wait is the same as asking how well we “do” Advent. Are we tempted with the increasing commercialization of Christmas to skip over Advent altogether? This season, promise yourself to take up one Advent tradition with new fervor. Investigate its origin and meaning. Allow the Holy Spirit to refresh a Catholic imagination within you and to remind you that you are an integral, irreplaceable part of a much larger and more important story. You live in a world brimming with sacramental promise because of the Child born in Bethlehem.
Our Advent refrain must be “Wait for the Lord! Be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord!” Even as economies crumble, and tumult and suffering seem to reign, all our waiting will end. Christmas is coming. We will see goodness, the goodness of the Lord.
Elizabeth M. Kelly is an award-winning speaker and the author of six books, including Reasons I Love Being Catholic, which won the Catholic Press Association award in 2007 for Best Popular Presentation of the Faith.