“Not all who wander are lost”. J. R. R. Tolkien
“The Waiting Game”
Growing up, I did not have anything like Advent to guide my December journey. Mostly, my life consisted of counting down the days until I got out of school—the calendar that still matters the most to our kids. That does not necessarily mean that my family did not foster their own Christmas traditions, many of which I try to maintain with my kiddos. Some of these include finding Christmas lights to gawk at, baking gingerbread, and watching silly but sweet Christmas movies. But even though I still find these activities fun and enriching, they do not compare to the majesty of Advent for me. Since discovering this practice of the Church, I have come to know a different path to the manger, one which I find of immense value to those of us trying—sometimes desperately—to avoid rampant consumerism.
At the outset, it might be a little tempting to move hurriedly towards the light. So many of us spend far too much time working uphill at a seemingly interminable pace that we feel overdue for a victory. Ever heard the expression, “I need a win today!” Well, that might be where you are, or where you’ve been for a while. Aches, pains, the blues; all too familiar experiences for some. And that is precisely why it is so important that we let the wisdom of Advent instruct us this year. You see, despite the emphasis on Light in so many places we travel, for Christians this season is actually about darkness.
The Light is light for which we have waited, for which we are called to wait still. In fact, the Jewish people had been awaiting the light for hundreds of years when Jesus was born. And even when it came, not everyone was able to see it. They had expected the Light to come pouring in like a tsunami and push out the Romans, who had occupied their land for as long as they could remember. But that was not and is typically not the way of God.
Rather than blind us, an experience that has certainly happened on occasion, God moves in the darkness, beckoning to us to follow him without a light. Odd I know, especially with all these light metaphors floating around the Biblical text. But stay with me. God invites us to tarry, as so many of our ancestors have, despite our predilection for overstimulation. God knows that unless we sit with our faith and our longing for a little while, we will be ill-prepared to receive the Light when it does come. If we have not held hunger in our hearts for the promise of God, then we remain unable to fully receive the liberating news of the Christ Child.
My preferred analogy for this season is a womb. Much like the nurture a child receives from a mother’s womb, the person of faith has the opportunity to rest in the dark, to be nurtured by it. Consequently, the season of Advent encourages a devotional practice that celebrates Sabbath and forgiveness, the Jubilee combination par excellence. So, rather than jumping headfirst into the frenzy of the “shopping season,” I pray that everyone would take time and consider the Word made flesh this year. What kind of Light do you await? What would it mean to embrace peace on earth, goodwill to all persons, regardless of their geographic origins (the Maggi) or their genealogy (look to Matthew’s list of Jesus’ descendants; hint: they are not all kings)? How long are you willing to wait for God to be born anew in your life?