I saw my first Christmas tree of the season just on three weeks ago, its lights twinkling through the front window of a suburban house. Now that’s anticipation! Not even the church begins its celebration of Advent that early.
It set me thinking about this whole thing of waiting. If you drive anywhere in a big city, red lights and slow moving peak hour traffic will slow you down and test your patience.
Here in Melbourne we’re still waiting for summer, or at least three consecutive days when the sun shines.
Two nights ago, right on dusk, we had a power outage in our sliver of Warrandyte and it was ten hours before power was restored. It was only in hindsight that I thought ‘how scriptural’ – an image of the world waiting in darkness for the light that was Christ.
Once upon a time, before the first Christmas, the people of God longed to be the masters in their own land. What they had in mind was a leader, a king or a great warrior. Read the Old Testament. It’s full of the yearning prayers of their waiting.
These days the retail world has captured the advent feeling and made it their own. They do a countdown just in remind us how many days are left before Christmas. The supermarkets have handout booklets full of yummy Christmas recipes for all the parties and guests who will drop by to extend their Christmas wishes. Shopping centres chase you down the aisles with Christmas music guaranteed to appeal whatever you belief Christmas is all about. December has become one long wait.
There are two kinds of waiting – the ordinary, everyday waiting and then there’s the kind that shadows our days and keeps us awake at night, that sprinkles our prayer with please God . . . We find this kind of waiting difficult, we just want it over. We can’t fix it ourselves so we call on God. That’s real Advent waiting and along with all the Chrismassey anticipation, December is an appropriate time to befriend it.
I’ve had two specific lots of waiting time this year. One of my children has been involved in a long, sometimes bitter, custody dispute and as the months wore on and solicitor’s letters went their slow way back and forth, it looked as though it would never end. Now it has and with that has come unexpected healing for the couple. Through it all I could do nothing but wait and stress and support and pray – in no particular order.
The other very different wait is the reason this website has been so silent this year. When I began to write my book I only had a vague idea of how long it would take, but I gave it eight months. Word by sometimes painful word, the chapters got written. Sometimes it would take me several hours to write and rewrite a paragraph until it said what I wanted it to. It’s close on a year since I began and the end is in sight. I’m editing it and finding out for myself that first drafts need a lot of rewriting. By the end of next week it will go off to the publisher who will do his own edit – and so on. All being well, some time next year it will be published. As one lot of waiting is nearly over, another begins.
We all have times when we wait for something to change, to grow, to come to an end. Whatever your waiting is or has been this year you might consider making it your Advent prayer. Bethlehem has a way of overriding time and geography.