How well do you wait? Sunday marked the beginning of Advent and, once again, I find myself writing Advent post here at Wondering Fair. In the past, I’ve written about the narrative importance of Advent, the traditional observance of Advent, and why people like to rush into Christmas. This year I was tempted to simply repost one of those previous reflections. After all, not much has changed: Advent is still about learning to wait well, about cultivating a holy longing and the expectation of redemption that only comes through Jesus, God-made-Man. But, part of the practice of annual celebrations like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter is returning again, each year, and reflecting anew.
And so, we return again to a period of waiting….
Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go (a disturbing but popular gift-book for children), describes the “waiting place.” It is “a most useless place” where
people are just waiting. Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go….
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No.
Waiting for…a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.”
The list, in typical Dr. Seuss fashion, is a fascinating mix of nonsense and existential longing. It is true that we spend much of our lives waiting, sometimes for God but more often within the context of the day-to-day. Waiting for all those yes’s, no’s, better breaks and second chances, we easily begin to treat waiting as something “useless,” something, even, from which we must “Somehow … escape.” After all, we are all meant for extraordinary things, right? Life is about romance, passion, excitement, adventure, and success… even according to Dr. Seuss!
Life in the proverbial fast lane is what our culture sells but a life of constant excitement is not real life. Real life is what we live in our bathrobes and work clothes, making coffee, pushing a stroller or a lawn mower, potty training children, invoicing clients, and eating another dinner at the family table, followed by the routines of bath and bed. One purposes of Advent is to recalibrate our imaginations so that we see these mundane activities, the routines and waiting of daily life, as something good, something holy, even.
Of course, Advent is not about simply waiting. It is about waiting in hope, waiting with the knowledge that God has rent the heavens and has come down among us. It is about waiting with the confidence that the mundane matters to God. In fact, the ordinary matters so much that God became a part of the mundane world, doing mundane carpenter work in a mundane village in Galilee. Even more importantly, Advent is about the practice of waiting with an eye to the future. During Advent, Christians around the world read, not about Jesus’ birth, but about his long-awaited return. We look to this future when heaven will come to earth, the mundane will be restored to its created goodness, and our imaginations—our ability to accurately apprehend the good, beautiful, and true—will be able to appreciate the ordinary for all its hearty richness.