The Waiting Season

“Well,” said Pooh,”what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” –A.A. Milne

I would have told Pooh that these weeks before Christmas were like that moment before you taste the honey. When I was a child, this was a magic time. There was a flurry of preparation that seemed to transform everyday chores into something special. Everyone was busy with shopping and decorating and school activities. There was an energy that felt electric underlying everything we did. It was happy and fun and full of the anticipation of Christmas. Not being a Catholic family, we didn’t call these weeks “Advent,” but that’s what we were feeling—as if we were holding our breath for the great gift of Christmas. Like Winnie the Pooh, those moments before the big day were as sweet as honey.

These days, in my advancing middle years, Advent is so much more than my childish anticipation of Christmas day. I treasure more dearly the reality and the mystery of the Holy Child born to save us. The sense of sweet anticipation is stronger than ever for me. There’s still so much to be done, but now my “doing” involves more prayer and service and less shopping and decorating. The time spent with loved ones is so much more precious, since many are no longer here with us. And, it seems this Advent is calling us beyond the limits of our community and into the world beyond our borders.  

It seems the world itself is anticipating something, too. We’re waiting for the next news report, mostly with dread. Will more innocent blood be spilled? We’re holding our collective breath, hoping and praying for peace, while we’re still in mourning for the latest victims. And into our broken and hurting world, our Savior will once again be born to bring us hope. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great Light”(Isaiah 9:2). Are there any more beautiful words in all of Sacred Scripture?  

You see sometimes I think we forget that the Light has always come into a world darkened by sin. It’s our faith that allows us to bear that Light to others. We step out beyond our fears and see the needs of our neighbors, illuminated for us by the light of Christ. That light allows us to love the unloveable and to forgive the unforgivable. Whenever it seems the darkness is winning, the Star reminds us that there is more to this life than struggle and heartache, than war and loss and fear. Christ comes to bring us a way out of all that binds us to sin. In Him, we find our purpose and the answer to all our questions. In a world torn by terror and war, His Light shows us the way.

He first came into a land of occupation and repression, filled with poverty, torn by war. And He’ll come again into our own world, so much the same as that first time. He didn’t wait until everything was perfect and everyone got along before He was born. He came into our mess, into our sin and anguish. And just like Him, we can’t wait until someone else fixes everything before we love and comfort and heal the wounded among us. We have to be like Jesus and love now, today, this person, this family, this brother and sister right in front of us. The real anticipation we feel in the weeks leading up to Christmas isn’t about the presents we’ll receive but in the joy of giving ourselves away. Advent calls us to love as Jesus loves, and catch the world unawares.

“We cannot wait til the world is sane,

To raise our songs with joyful voice,

For to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

        —-Madeline L’Engle 

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