The last few days of Advent are upon us! I am not sure where all the time has gone but in just days it will be Christmas at last. At our house, the shopping is *almost* done. The Christmas cookies are made. The cards (yes, I did reconsider and send out a few) are “signed”, sealed, and delivered. The Advent candles are almost down to nothing. Visions of sugarplums are already forming the minds of my little ones. Tonight night we will attend the Reconciliation service at Church and then, the only thing left to do will be to wait. As a child, the waiting was always the best and worst part of Christmas for me. I loved the feeling of anticipation during Advent and all the special things we would do to get ready for Christmas but it always seemed to last so very long.
My mom would do everything she could to stretch out the waiting even once Christmas morning arrived. I am not sure if it was the mounting excitement that she knew came with the anticipation or if she was just taking the opportunity to teach us a little patience. She claims she really and truly wanted to make it last as long as she could because she knew it was all so magical and special for us. Whatever the reason, she would make us all wait for her and my dad to get up before we could even go downstairs to see our presents. The four of us kids would all line up at the top of the stairs after waking our parents and wait….. for what seemed like f-o-r-e-v-e-r.... for them to get out of bed and join us for the walk down the steps to the living room to see what Santa had brought. As we waited, my sisters and I would sit and wonder what might be awaiting us but my brother would inevitably get too excited to sit still and would dart down the steps for a quick peek before mom and dad emerged from their room to catch him. Finally, after descending the stairs as a family, we would be allowed to open our stockings and see what gifts were there but we could not open anything under the tree until after our parents got their coffee and settled themselves on the couch to watch the unwrapping. The coffee always seemed to take longer to brew on Christmas morning as we eyed our gifts so eager to see what they contained. Even then, after all that stalling, we were not allowed to just dive in and start tearing off paper haphazardly. We would take turns. One child opening one gift at a time, around the circle, so we could all watch and see what treasures our siblings received, and they could see what ours were as well. It would take hours but how wonderful my memories are of those Christmas mornings spent all together around the tree sharing our presents and our joy with each other.
I appreciate all the waiting now that I am grown. I can see that that is what Advent is all about. It is about waiting, as Mary and Joseph waited. They waited to welcome their baby, they waited to see what God had planned for them next, they waited to see how His plan would unfold in their lives. They waited for their journey to Bethlehem to come to an end. They waited for a place to stay, patiently enduring the doors of inn after inn being shut in their faces. Much of the Christmas story is about waiting. And, about anticipation. And, about trusting along the way, growing closer to God as we prepare, like Mary and Joseph prepared, for the coming of our Lord.
Like my mother, I will try to encourage my children to wait, to anticipate, to look forward, not only to the wonder of presents on Christmas morning but, ultimately, to the joy of welcoming Christ. I wish you happy waiting, joyful anticipation, and…. finally a merry, merry Christmas.