“‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ the Advent mantra, means that all of Christian history has to live out of a kind of deliberate emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. Perfect fullness is always to come, and we do not need to demand it now. This keeps the field of life wide open and especially open to grace and to a future created by God rather than ourselves.” (Richard Rohr)
Waiting – the discipline of Advent – has acquired new meaning for me. When I was young, I eagerly waited through the weeks of December. The anticipation added to the excitement of Christmas. What presents would I receive? I enjoyed the rituals of Advent – lighting the candles around the Advent wreath, decorating Christmas cookies, singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. The waiting was fun!
This year, I’ve been sick. And I haven’t gotten better. I’ve made all kinds of changes to my life, I’ve seen all kinds of doctors, but I still make little progress on the road to healing. I’m waiting to be well. Unlike the joyous expectation of Christmas, this waiting is uncomfortable, uncertain, and right now, unfulfilled. It’s likely congruent with what Zechariah and Elizabeth endured, who, as Luke 1 shares, waited into old age before their dreams of conceiving and bearing a child were fulfilled.
Waiting for Christmas – “holiday waiting” – is controlled by us, stuffed with parties, music, garlands, lights, sweets, shopping. Advent waiting requires openness, that we release our need to control that for which we’re longing and wait for God to move. Perfect fullness is yet to come, as Richard Rohr observes. I have a hunch that this kind of waiting is more joyous in the end. When we let go, we have space within ourselves to witness and receive God’s surprises. If Christmas teaches us anything, it is that God delights in surprising us with grace.
Rachel Young is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Pres. as the Director of Contemporary Worship and Media. She blogs weekly at reverendrachel.wordpress.com.