When was the last time you had to wait? Was it at a traffic light, the check-out line at the grocery store or perhaps at an airport security check point? At these times waiting is often experienced as an inconvenience, a hurdle we need to bypass so we can move on to where we are going. Impatience and sometimes annoyance accompany our waiting in these situations. But there are other experiences of waiting that are marked by expectation and joy, wonder and hope. Such is the waiting of Advent.
Advent is a beautiful time and season. In our Northern Hemisphere it occurs during the darkest days of the year. Minute by minute we lose the light of day as we approach the shortest day of the year. The short days and encroaching darkness provide the setting in which we wait to celebrate once again the birth of the child who will turn darkness into light. This birth, as every birth, is preceded by months of waiting expectantly for the arrival, the coming of the child. What are you waiting for this Advent? What is it that you desire — for what and for whom are you waiting? Perhaps it is quiet moments and time to enjoy your family; good health; reconciliation with a family member or friend; a visit by relatives separated by distance; peace within your heart, your home or at your workplace; employment and adequate means of sustenance.
I have always found the scripture readings during Advent particularly appealing. The themes of the light overcoming darkness, waiting in hope and joy for God’s coming and being ready to meet the Lord when he arrives are consoling and yet challenging. They direct my attention to peace, to light, to joy, to hope and ultimately to Christ, the Prince of Peace and the Light of the World who brings the steadfast hope that sustains us on the journey of life and a joy that cannot be taken from us even in the difficulties and challenges of daily life.
Many of the early doctors of the Church speak of multiple “comings” of Christ. St. Bernard, for example, refers to three comings: Christ’s birth when He came in our flesh and took on our weaknesses, His final coming in glory and majesty at the end of time and His coming into our hearts when we are open to receive Him. The first coming is a past event and therefore we do not wait for it. Nonetheless we need to recall it, to commemorate it, to kneel at the crib and bring to mind who the child is and what He did for us.
We do wait, however, for Christ’s final coming. The readings for the first Sunday of Advent exhorted us to “stay awake.” “Awake from your sleep,” St. Paul told us. We need to be alert and pay attention because the Lord will come again and we want to be ready to meet Him. The best preparation for this final coming is attention to the present moment, attention to the Lord who knocks at the door of our heart desiring to come and make His home within us now, in this moment, in every situation and circumstance of our life. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him” (Jn 14:23).
“God ‘comes’: he comes to be with us in every situation of ours, he comes to dwell among us, to live with us and within us; he comes to fill the gaps that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with him and with one another” (Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 3, 2006). Are we ready to welcome God who comes to us in His word and sacraments and through our brothers and sisters in whom he lives?
Our Blessed Mother teaches us how to wait. She waited for the birth of her child in faith, hope and charity. Her faith in God’s word did not waver even though having a child seemed an impossibility to her. She waited in hope, trusting that the promise of a child would be fulfilled. And she waited in charity, traveling to visit and be of assistance to her elderly cousin Elizabeth. Let’s keep our eyes open with a sense of anticipation to meet the Lord when He comes.
One last thought. I am reading a short book of reflections this Advent entitled The Lord Awaits. The title reminded me that I am not the only one who is waiting. The Lord waits for me! He is waiting for me to open my heart and mind to Him so that He can come to me. The Lord waits patiently and with love for me. He waits patiently and with love for you!
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.