Sunrise. This was the sun rising over the Thames early one wintry morning last week. Seeing the sun rise, and thinking of Jesus, the Radiant Dawn, who will soon come, scattering all our darkness, made my heart skip. He is really coming!
There is very little about Advent that feels like waiting. Unless you take a Scrooge-like stance and turn down invitations to Christmas parties, drinks, carol concerts, pantomimes and ice-skating … there is really not much in the way of fasting or penance or waiting about Advent. Being all-pervasive and somewhat unavoidable, the secular celebration (which ends on Boxing Day) does seem to trump and swamp the Christian feast.
Despite the contradictions, I have been pondering a lot on waiting. To do Advent properly – to avoid feasting and drinking, Christmas films and festive lights before Christmas Day – you’d probably have to head off to a monastery or hermitage somewhere. Having said this, the more we reflect on waiting, the more we realise we do a lot of it, and one way we can live Advent (even while drowning in mulled wine) is to wait well.
We wait in all kinds of ways. Recently, my family was waiting to hear about a job offer for my mum, a wait that started at one day and turned into a week. Since then, many of us have been waiting to finish work, to go home for the holidays, or welcome guests. When we are waiting, it is so easy to wish the time away. Waiting ceases being holy, then; rather, there is a restless striving in our hearts that time would hurry up and pass. If you’ve ever been in a boring job and you’re watching the clock, you know what I mean.
In the last week, I found myself ‘wishing’ the time past in this way, and then it struck me. It is not how God intends us to use time. For him, he is in every moment of time, and every moment of time is capable of opening up into eternity… because of the fullness of his presence in it. I realised that by counting down days, I was missing the grace of ‘now’, the grace of Jesus’ presence in the time of waiting.
Being in God’s will is enough, not wishing for the future or hankering for the past. Holy waiting, loving him in the ‘now’, means a greater celebration when it comes. When we long for the future, we make that our ‘idol’, and when it comes, we discover it, in itself, does not make us happy. The Lord and living his presence alone make us happy – whether we are with him in the waiting or in the feasting. Honouring Jesus’ presence in our time of waiting, when it means deprivation or boredom, guarantees a celebration – when it comes – that is full. Full both of Jesus and his consolations. Enjoy him in the Feast!