Advent, learning the art of waiting

The tinsel, lights, reindeer tunes, sales, and general atmosphere of busy preparations are in full swing again, well before I am ready for any of it. I’ve given up trying to jump in and keep pace with the world; however, I can’t help but study humanity as we go through this repetitious cycle. We are fascinating creatures.

Typically, repetition signals importance, so I don’t want to brush it all off as nonsense. What are our hard-wired instincts telling us? What are we so naturally drawn into preparing for, convincing us to start earlier every year? And how can we tap into that reality, making good use of it, instead of being lured away by a thousand sparkling distractions?

“It is a season particularly of the woman…who has great potential for the spiritual maternity which was so basic in Our Lady.”

Mother Mary Francis of the Poor Clare Nuns in Roswell, New Mexico. Come, Lord Jesus – Meditations on the Art of Waiting

Truly, women usually are the ones behind the scenes planning, preparing, decorating, purchasing, wrapping, inviting, cleaning, hosting, and cleaning again. We have the power to steer the mood and purpose of this entire season. Will we start it off investing ourselves in the right things, leaving enough time and energy for what truly matters? What will others be inclined to do, by way of our example?

I know it would do me well to look to my mother for guidance this season, before I get swept up into the glittery whirlwind. Our Mother Mary, of course, to learn the best preparation for Christ. My own mother and all my female relatives, to learn precious family traditions. And also Holy Mother Church, who provides a liturgical season rich with advice and purpose.

Today’s Epistle is from St. Paul in Romans 13:11-14. “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.” And in the Gospel of St. Luke 21:25-33, Our Lord warns us to notice the signs, for “redemption is at hand.” This season is a reminder that we must pay attention and be ready, for Someone is coming. It does feel so very maternal, as we plan and clean and cook and prepare gifts. Pregnant women call it “nesting” for a reason.

But is all this nesting we are doing the right type of preparation for the right type of guest? What if someone were to stop you in your tracks and ask you, “Why are you rushing about, why are you cleaning and decorating?” I suspect the answer always revolves around this – someone is expecting something and the deadline is approaching. I have to keep in mind, it matters less what the world is expecting…what is He expecting of me?

The answer is in that same Epistle. And it doesn’t involve covering everything in tinsel just yet. “Let us cast off the works of darkness…let us walk honestly.” And there is even more instruction in the book of Isaiah 2:4, “Turn your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks.” Yes, we need to be adamant about preparing right now. But it’s not because I’m about to miss the Black Friday sales.

First and foremost our efforts must be to cultivate our interior lives so that whether God’s grace comes to us at Christmas or at that unknown hour, we are ready to receive it. For how can I give anything good to others if I myself am not good? Considering the pregnant mother again, she must make herself healthy in order to give good nutrients to her baby. I don’t want to just give my family gifts. I want to give them really good, useful gifts. That takes an effort more focused and intentional. The world’s version of “right now” nearly convinces me that I simply don’t have time.

On the other hand, Holy Mother Church advises treating Advent as a mini-Lent. Can sacrificing and pruning and changing my life be done in the midst of a to-do list pages long? Absolutely. If I’m willing to sacrifice the world’s expectations in exchange for His expectations.

What if I gave Sundays completely back to God, believing Him that I need a day of rest in His Presence in order to accomplish everything else all week long? How much more would get done well?

What if I waited to have Christmas treats until Christmas actually arrives? How sweet and delicious and satisfying would they taste?

What if I waited to decorate not just until the cleaning of my house is done, but the cleaning of my soul? How fulfilling would Christmas morning be if I was truly ready to meet and even host Him?

Yes, all of humanity is buzzing around preparing.

Preparing for the deadline of someone’s expectations.

We’re all hard-wired to do it.

So let’s do it for real. Right now.

For now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.

Redemption is at hand.


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