We are nearing the end of Advent; literally a time of waiting; but for what? For Christians, it is supposed to be a time of anticipation of the birth of a savior. Even for secular people, or even for Christians less inclined to focus on the literal meaning, it is hard to escape the sense of anticipation. We can almost sense the gears of the old year grinding to a halt, with the New Year waiting around the corner promising . . . we don’t really know what. During this last half of December, we can feel the shift of expectations; less is expected of us at work, (very little needs to get done during these last two weeks) and often, so we believe, more may be expected of us at home.
I like the idea of anticipation . . . most of the time; the feeling of being on the edge of our seats, with a sense of excitement about what may lie ahead. Many of us had profound experiences of this anticipation as a child, staring at the presents under the tree for many weeks, culminating in a blaze of Christmas joy; anticipation satisfied.
As an adult, it feels a little different. I still really enjoy Christmas and it generally means slowing down (eventually) and spending time with people I love. But right now, at this moment, I am captivated by the idea of the waiting; the anticipation. Just what am I anticipating?
I have long been struck by the line from a T.S. Elliot poem that asks us to “wait without hope, because hope might be for the wrong thing”. I like it, not because it is wrong to hope, (I love having hopes and dreams), but because it brings me back to the moment. What I don’t really want is to get caught waiting for anything that cannot be found today.
I realize, that all of the great Christmas feelings, all of the things I have ever found worth waiting for, are present, right now, within me, and around me. Whether I see that through the lens of my faith, and recognize that a savior has already been born, or I simply reflect on my life experience that all good things are experienced in the moment; not tomorrow, but now, it seems to have the ring of truth.
I love Christmas carols, the ones filled with joy and laughter as well as the peaceful ones. My favorite will always be Silent Night. It brings about a feeling, both by its words and melody, of simply sitting and taking in all in. It literally depicts shepherds waiting on a quiet starry night, but it almost always brings me a sense of calm to think about it, even when I reflect on it in a busy office. It is almost a meditation in and of itself.
So, I will wait; it is what Advent asks of me. But this year, I will try to do it without any thought of what is “supposed” to come; and without any expectation that I have to become better than I am, and with the full comfort that whatever I am truly waiting for probably exists, already, here and now.