In this age of instant gratification, it seems that nobody has the patience to wait for anything anymore. No matter how old we are, we have all been swept up in the belief that we need everything to happen or be given to us right now, at this very moment. The notion of waiting for anything has completely gone out of fashion. Amazon is even looking at the possibility of same-day delivery drones because getting a package in one or two days is simply not fast enough any longer.
This week, our Jewish friends are celebrating Chanukah, meaning dedication, an eight-day period to celebrate religious freedom and the rededication of the temple after war with Greece. Though the great temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing, the Jewish people continue to pray there and continue to wait for the coming of their Messiah. In fact, they have been waiting for 6000 years. Talk about being patient! While Christians believe that the Messiah has already come, we are reminded, each year, of the 4000 years we waited when we celebrate Advent. To many, this four-week period of anticipation is more than they can bear. I know of one couple who already exchanged Christmas presents because they couldn’t bear to wait just twenty days more for Christmas.
I get it. It’s hard to wait, but…
16 years to drive a car
9 Months to have a baby.
3 months for a typical harvest of grain.
Every day we are asked to be patient and wait. And as I look around the world today, read headlines in the news, and see how people act when confronted with any type of wait (think a fast food line that isn’t fast), I can’t help but wonder about the destruction we do to ourselves and our children by giving in to the notion that nothing is worth waiting for. Shootings, riots, and all kinds of other horrendous things happen simply because somebody decided not to wait for an answer or wait for an outcome or wait to see if there is a better solution.
Perhaps one of the most important things that Christians can take away from Advent is that it’s okay to wait, imperative even. We’ve all heard that patience is a virtue, but what does that mean? Why does it matter? Kira Newman, considered an expert on happiness, tells us that “patience is essential to daily life” and is a key to being happy. Being patient means being able to be calm and leads one to being grateful, less stressed, and having a better outlook on life. Patient people, according to Newman, have better mental health, better relationships, a better chance of achieving goals, and better overall health.
I don’t believe that being patient during Advent means not decorating, not singing Christmas carols, or not celebrating the season. Those are all things that can help us with the wait, fill us with anticipation, and remind us that Christmas is a special time of great celebration. My friend, Susan, at the Y’all Need Jesus Blog has some great tips on celebrating Advent. It’s a whole season where we get to focus on what is coming and not on what is now. We get to experience the wait, knowing that something miraculous is not just the light at the end of the tunnel but the Light of the World. It’s an entire four weeks of joyously looking ahead. We shouldn’t approach it with dread (spending time with family should not be a chore). We shouldn’t approach it with exhaustion (who cares if someone on your list gets one last present this year than they got last year). And we shouldn’t approach it with the idea that as soon as it gets here, we can be done with it.
Because that’s the great thing about being patient. It allows us to truly appreciate the thing that is to come. When it arrives, there should be a prolonged period of joy and celebration. I remember when my daughter worked on her Silver Award for Girl Scouts. She lovingly packed book bags to give to underprivileged children at the start of the school year. One little boy, about five-years-old, cried when she handed him the bag. We all cried. He looked at her with amazement and told her he had always wanted a book bag. His gratitude was palpable. Oh, if we could all be that grateful when we receive something for which we’ve been waiting!
So, take advantage of the next twenty days to practice patience. Not just as far as Christmas, but in all that you do. Chat with the person ahead of you in line; smile at the clerk when you reach the counter. Take a long walk in the crisp, cold air just to slow the pace of your day. Enjoy the foods and the lights and the music and the festivities instead of begrudgingly going through the motions. And when Christmas arrives, don’t celebrate for one day and then forget what you’d been waiting for! Though our society tells us that Christmas is over at 12:01 on the morning of December 26th, Christmas really does last for twelve days! And those twelve days have nothing to do with swans a swimming or maids a milking.
Christmas BEGINS, it does not end, on December 25th. It goes until January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. The Epiphany culminates the Christmas season with two joyous events–the Baptism of the Lord and the visitation of the Three Wise Men. After four weeks of patient waiting, we are supposed to spend an entire twelve days celebrating. Like all good things, we are rewarded for our patience. We have received the Lord, and He wants us to rejoice and celebrate with Him for twelve full days! Imagine waiting for something for 2000 years and then brushing it off after only a day. That’s what we do every year.
This year, you can do things differently. You can be patient, enjoy the coming of the holidays, anticipate the birth of the King, and then take the time to celebrate what you have received. Leave those lights up. Keep singing those carols. Continue to visit with loved ones. Be grateful for all that you have been given. I ran across a beautiful quote recently that sums all of this up quite nicely. I think it’s really what Advent is all about:
“Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”
Happy Advent to you and yours. Embrace the wait. You will be rewarded in the end.
What I was writing about a year ago this week: Food Memories.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).