Black Friday is over; cue the Christmas music.
My very Christmas-conscious wife has already carefully decorated our home with Mr. and Mrs. Clauses, soft fuzzy reindeer, ribbons, bows and, of course, a Nativity set. On Saturday, I have been informed, we will do the outside work and then it's Christmas tree day. The season is officially here, but the actual event, the big day, is still weeks away.
I've always had a hard time with the waiting. I was the kid with a short list of three big items that I was going to progressively "convince" Santa (aka my parents) to get for me. Usually the newest video game system, and then perhaps some music or a game I wanted. What made things worse was the fact that my mother was not very good at keeping secrets. I knew almost immediately by the smile on her face that presents were somewhere in the house.
An immediate covert operation would begin.
This pathology goes way back to my early childhood when I didn't completely comprehend the concept of waiting for Christmas day. I remember my parents wrapping a book and placing it under the tree when I was very young. Each morning I opened it. Each night, my parents rewrapped it. It took me a while to understand that I wasn't receiving the same book every day, nor were my parents buying it in bulk.
Waiting never came naturally to me. I'm still notorious for spending gift cards immediately, in sharp contrast to my wife, who will wait years for the right sale or opportunity.
But waiting is what this season is all about. In the liturgical calendar, we are in the time of Advent, or a time when Christians reflect on the fact that we are all waiting for the return of Christ. This is amplified by reflections on the first coming of Christ, on Christmas Day. The ancient world waited for a savior; we wait for the return.
My middle school students recently had some great ideas about how to see waiting as something good. The best example I heard was the act of fishing. A good fisherman has to wait for the catch. Sometimes the going is slow and one has to occupy oneself while simultaneously being ready to grab the reel and pull in the big one. Whether it is a marlin, trout, catfish or perch, there is a joy in reeling in the catch. The waiting heightens the experience and as the event ends we realize we have a great story to tell. Pictures are taken, a few deep breaths are inhaled and you get a few pats on the back.
As the world wrestled with itself, and called out for a mediator between God and mankind (see the book of Job), an event happened wherein some people took hold of the reel and held on tightly. They experienced God walking among us, dying among us and rising above that death. The book of Hebrews in chapter 9 speaks: "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
This Advent, remember to take some time to be quiet, worship and reflect in anticipation of two great events. One that has already changed the world in the moments of Christmas day, and another that will come and in a great return wipe the remaining tears of sorrow away.
Come now Jesus, we wait.