I am not a patient person, and I don’t like to wait. I walk fast, read fast, even eat fast. Sometimes this is a gift, and I am able to accomplish more than most. Other times, however, I miss something very important.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a perfect opportunity to get caught up in the rush. There is so much to do and so little time. People to see, gifts to buy, and cookies to bake. On Christmas morning, it is not uncommon for me to feel like I have lost or forgotten something along the way. Most often that something is the wait.
Christmas is coming, but it’s not here yet
Advent is not Christmas, and Christmas does not begin until it is here. Yes, it is a common misconception that the 12 Days of Christmas begin on December 13. In fact, Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas, and day 12 arrives on January 6, the feast of Epiphany, which celebrates the visit of the magi to the child Jesus. Advent is not Christmas, and it demands a very different kind of celebration. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put our trees up. I happen to like my tree up early. But it does mean our focus should be on something besides commercial Christmas.
For some, it may be shock to learn that Advent is a time to slow down. It seems strange to say this when the list of demands and activities gets longer and more urgent the closer to Christmas we get. But if we think about a pregnant mother getting closer to her time, we can learn some important lessons about how to live the days of Advent.
Waiting was Mary’s most important task
The mother of Jesus certainly must have had a to-do list like we can’t imagine as she waited for the coming of her Son. In addition to gathering—likely making—clothing and other necessities for the child, she also had a trip to plan as she and Joseph prepared to travel to Bethlehem. Despite the many things a mother has to do as her time draws near, there is only so much she can physically accomplish in the last days of a pregnancy.
Perhaps this can be a lesson to us, especially those of us who know what it’s like to carry a child in the womb. We can allow Jesus to fill us more and more, even as he grew in Mary’s body, and cherish the wait as she must have.
Be patient with ourselves and others. Waiting has no virtue if we do it with annoyance and frustration.
Be gentle and allow gentleness into our lives as much as possible. This may mean rejecting invitations to boisterous holiday affairs and choosing instead to dwell in front of the empty manger.
Be quiet and don’t be afraid of it. An expectant mother may treasure those moments of silent reflection before the flurry of welcoming a new baby.
Be kind, whether we are with our own families or among strangers.
When I was pregnant, the wonder of it often struck me dumb. The thought would wash over me, “I am carrying a miracle!” This is no less true for those of us who treasure Christ in our hearts during these dark, cold days of Advent. As much as Christmas, Advent is a season of miracles, and we should not rush to get to its end. With all good things, the wait can be part of the joy.