What is Advent? Unfortunately for so many it’s a season that brings on tension and stress as we get ready for Christmas. Imagine how the conversation would have possibly gone if Archie Bunker had ever talked about Christmas with his son-in-law, Michael. Michael says to Arch, “Well, what is Advent anyway Arch? I bet you don’t even know what it is.” Arch replies, “Of course I know what it is—it is in the Bible, Meathead. Add vent means that you Add up all your hostile feelings and then Vent them on somebody. And you know, Meathead, its people like you that makes me look forward to Advent.”
Advent is not a time to Add to our reasons to Vent. Advent is a time of waiting, a time to prepare our hearts and minds to meet Jesus Christ. Waiting is often difficult to do. The other day I made a poor choice on the line I chose at the grocery store—by the time a realized it was too late—frustration set in—I was in a hurry. We have all had to wait. At the doctor’s office, the minutes tick like hours. We all wait—hear the Psalmist / Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.”
Hear the cries of the Jewish people waiting for freedom from Roman oppression. See the scruffy John the Baptist waiting on God to bring justice and repentance as he preaches in the wilderness. Look at nervous Joseph as Mary’s breathing becomes heavy in a makeshift maternity ward with animals for attendants since there was no room in the inn. And look at the early church—a band of would be Christians darting in and out of catacombs for their sacred rituals, dodging Roman soldiers—waiting for this resurrected Jesus to come back any minute.
It is in our blood to wait and watch. What are we waiting for this Christmas? For some we are just waiting for the holiday to be over. I believe everyone is waiting for something: perhaps a new break-through for a health problem we or someone close to us is having; a better financial situation; more clarity in a relational matter; an election; a solution to a family matter which has become complex. What are we waiting for? It often depends on our age and stage in life. Children await something entirely different than what adults wait for. When we are children we often have one thing in mind—for instance we await Christmas presents under the tree and often the bigger the better. But looking back I now know it wasn’t all about the presents themselves—it was also the realization that someone cared, that I belonged to a family, that someone knew my name.
Some get impatient with feeling they don’t belong. Some await a reprieve from loneliness. Many wait for that sense of belonging—and not just at Christmas. To belong. To be recognized. A certain Governor had stopped in a little country restaurant for something to eat. While eating he asked impatiently for some more butter. The waitress who had a mind of her own and wanting to make a point said: “I don’t believe I will bring you any more.” The Governor said, “Ma’am do you know who I am?” She said, “No, who?” He said “I am the governor of this state.” And she said “Well do you know who I am?” He said “No. Who?” “I am the keeper of the Butter.” It just illustrates that we want to be recognized for who we are. Perhaps in our deepest self that is something we long for this Christmas. We’re all waiting for something. We wait and we wait.
At our higher spiritual level what we are really longing for at Christmas is new life, new vision, a new beginning in Jesus Christ. But it’s so very important that we realize we are not the only ones waiting. There is someone else waiting too. It is God. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what God may be waiting for not just during Advent but at all times?
The theologian Helmut Thielicke has renamed the parable of the prodigal son. He calls it “the parable of the waiting father.” The waiting father never gives up on us. He is waiting there for all of us wise men and women to wise up, all of us shepherds to wake up, and all the animals, and all creation, and all the heavenly hosts to come around, not just to a manger but to who Jesus Christ, Emanuel, really is: the waiting father. Now what do we suppose He is waiting for? Do you suppose he’s truly waiting for you?