Every year at this time, I write about waiting, partially because it is the season of Advent — a word derived from the Latin root adventus and the Greek root parousia, meaning coming or arrival — which also describes the four weeks prior to Christmas.
But I also write about waiting because, well, it seems I am always waiting for something significant before the arrival of Christmas.
The stores are waiting to come out of the red and into the black by selling merchandise. The gifters are waiting to find just the right gift. The recipients are waiting to receive the gift —contributing to the endless cycle of waiting to satisfy a longing and/or check it off our list.
Beneath all the glitter of this commercialized season, I know many people who are waiting for much greater things than a neatly wrapped gift beneath a Christmas tree.
One friend of mine — a teacher whose classroom has expanded far beyond concrete walls to an internet following of hundreds, since her diagnosis of stage four cancer two years ago — is waiting for test results which will help direct the next course of treatment in a battle against this dreaded disease.
Another friend who waited nine months for the birth of her first grandchild now waits in prayer as the newborn heals in the NICU, hoping the baby will soon be welcomed home by the prayerful family.
Members of our online women’s Bible study fill the comment sections weekly with petitions for prayers waiting to be answered. Most petitions are hope-filled, remembering the gift of answered prayers. Some like my own, are tinged with a weary hope, tired from many battles.
As I write this, my husband is recovering in the hospital from a hip replacement. Despite diligent preparations and physical therapy he made at the urging of his doctors, we were both a little blindsided by the extent of his pain and the labor it takes to take the next step.
In a rare display of role reversals, my youngest daughter walks faster than my husband and navigates precarious corners like a walker-pushing pro. He’s still getting used to the aides he needs to temporarily assist him. Ideas for adaptive devices keep his brain thinking beyond the pain. I’m hoping it leads to a prototype and a visit to the “Shark Tank.” (We LOVE that show).
Having spent more Advent and Christmas seasons in the hospital than I care to admit, I am used to spending this time waiting for more than coupons, deals, and gifts. Waiting for things like physical healing and resolve of brain hemorrhages quell the frenzy of the commercialized preparations and celebrations of Christmas.
Still, I propose that all of us — shoppers and contemplatives alike — have this in common: We are waiting for the Lord to come.
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) described this longing in his famous quote from “Confessions”: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Our hearts are restless — as evidenced in the frenzied business of this season.
Whether we seek the Lord in the glitter and glamor of neatly wrapped packages or while lying awake staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m., wakened by the glare fluorescent lights in a darkened hospital room, we all wait for the Lord to come.
Some of us don’t realize we are waiting for the Lord to come and fill the empty hole in our heart so we run around trying to fill it with varied carnal pleasures — to no avail. St. Augustine, a wild prodigal son turned radical saint, knew this longing and found the ultimate satisfaction in surrendering his life to the Lord. He wrote his “Confessions” from a restless heart that waited for the Lord to come.
The first chapter of John’s gospel refers to our wait in the darkness. It is read often in the Advent and Christmas season. I love the first chapter.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5
This scripture reminds me of how and why we all are waiting for the Lord to come. These verses do not promise an end to the darkness that surrounds us. But they do promise Jesus is the life and light for which we wait. It penetrates the darkness- much like our Christmas lights illuminate the darkness of the lingering winter nights.
I was reminded of these verses the other day, just before dawn. I was dragging the garbage cans down the hill of my driveway from the house to the road. I have taken over this chore for my husband since his hip went out.
As I stepped out onto the driveway, I was struck with the beauty of the stillness and the comfort of the Lord in the darkness before dawn. The only sound I heard was the waves of the Long Island Sound crashing in the distance.
I wasn’t afraid of walking down the long driveway in the dark because I know the Lord is my light and I trusted that soon, the dawn would come. I’d been up since 4 a.m. and I found it to be a treasured time in prayer. The Lord had already given me insights and strength to face the day ahead — my husband’s surgery and the care he would require. I did not allow the looming darkness to overwhelm me. Instead, I waited for the Lord to come. He was my light in the darkness and the darkness, while still dark, could not overcome the light.
We are all waiting for something or someone to fill the empty holes in our hearts and give us light in the darkness which surrounds us. I pray you use this season of preparation to turn to the Lord in your waiting. I promise you, He will answer your deepest longing.
If we allow Him to be our Light in the darkness and answer the deepest longings of our hearts- God will prove; the Lord is worth the wait.