December 10, 2019

Waiting Well

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR *
Credit: Kara Monroe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Credit: Kara Monroe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

I am not Scrooge. I want to get that out there before I write anything else. I love Christmas. I don’t want to “Bah! Humbug!” twinkle lights. And I plan on giving every employee of Franciscan University of Steubenville a week off to celebrate.

But (you knew the “but” was coming), it’s not yet Christmas.

Despite what the Hallmark Channel says, Christmas doesn’t start in October, or even on Thanksgiving Weekend. Nor is the holiday itself a celebration of perfectly decorated trees, sleigh rides, and snowman-building competitions. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas celebrates his coming, the miraculous entrance of God himself into human history. On Christmas morning, we rejoice in the wonder of the Incarnation, of God becoming a tiny human baby, born in a stable. And we rejoice at the merciful love that would lead that baby to Calvary, where he would open the gates to heaven once more.

Christmas morning, however, isn’t until December 25. Before then, for a period of roughly four weeks, we prepare for that morning. The Church calls this season of preparation “Advent.”

During Advent, we ready our hearts and homes for the coming of the Savior. We reflect. We pray. And we wait.

As the world waited through countless long centuries for God to send the redeemer promised to Adam and Eve, we wait.

As Israel waited for God to honor the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, we wait.

As Mary waited nine long months to hold her baby, we wait.

As Jesus waited to go to Jerusalem, where all would be fulfilled, we wait.

And as the Apostles waited in the Upper Room, first after Jesus’ Crucifixion and later after Jesus’ Ascension, we wait.

The story of salvation history, from first to last, is filled with accounts of God’s people waiting – waiting for a home, waiting for a spouse, waiting for a child, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and above all, waiting for redemption, waiting for Jesus. Waiting is a constant theme in Sacred Scripture, and that should clue us in to an important truth: learning to wait well matters. It is spiritually important.
 
Most of us, though, don’t wait well. We stand in front of the microwave and say, “Hurry up.” We wish our InstaPot were just a bit quicker. We skip the drive-through because the line is too long. We get frustrated when we pray and pray, but don’t get the answer we want right away.

As a people, we don’t wait well. And because we don’t wait well, we suffer. We lose hope. We despair. We miss out on the blessings of the moment, becoming so focused on what God isn’t giving us that we fail to see what he is giving us.

Advent, however, invites us to do things differently. It invites us to wait – to hold off, for just a little while, on the celebrating, so we can come to a deeper appreciation of the reason for the celebrating.

When we take Advent up on that invitation, we discover the secret to waiting well.

Waiting well is finding Jesus where we are, not only where we will be or want to be.

Waiting well is inviting God into the moment – this moment, right now, not some future moment.

Waiting well is not only looking at what will be, but also discovering God in what is.

Waiting well is trusting that God is faithful; it’s believing that regardless of whatever present darkness might surround us, light will come.

And waiting well means allowing God to slowly change our hearts in this time so when we once again find our God, lying in the crib, we can realize he was with us all along.

This Advent, don’t be in a hurry. Take it slow. Go ahead and prepare for Christmas – buy the gifts, ready your home, do your baking – but also wait. Wait to open the gifts. Maybe wait to do the final decorating until Christmas gets closer. Or even wait to eat all those cookies until Christmas Eve. Just save something about Christmas for Christmas, and trust that the wait will be worth it. It always is.


For more thoughts on Advent from Father Dave as well as inspirational videos, blogs, music, and other resources, visit Franciscan University’s ’Tis the Season Advent website.

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, a well-known speaker and author, became the seventh president of Franciscan University of Steubenville in May 2019.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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