WAITING MAKES US UNCOMFORTABLE
…Waiting … Perhaps one of the things that is characteristic of our age is that we hate waiting for things. We don’t like it and, generally, we aren’t good at it. A recent study found that the influence of web use has brought the average attention span of adults to 8 seconds. At that point, if they are not interested, their minds begin to wonder. FYI, the same study, also discovered that the average attention span of a goldfish is apparently 9 seconds. This past Friday probably many of you were held up by the first snowfall that turned the roads in sections into a sheet of ice and stalled traffic to a standstill. I was coming back from Hamilton and it took me over two hours. Others said that it took them 3 1/2 hours to get home. What a terrible way to spend a Friday evening!
THE TWO TEMPTATIONS TO WAITING
Waiting is something that is essential to this time of Advent which we begin today, in fact, the distinct spirit of Advent is patience and expectation. The great danger is that we will transfer our natural uneasiness with waiting to Advent. There are two dangers here, first that the waiting for Christmas drives us crazy. It makes us anxious, frustrated, short and generally unpleasant people to be around this time of year. This is not good. Second, that right from the beginning, we give up on this whole process of looking forward to Christmas and just celebrate it each day as if it has already come. This too is not good and when it’s Christmas every day it gets old fairly quickly.
WAITING WELL HELPS US TO BENEFIT MORE
Why do we wait? Why does the Church ask us to go through this uncomfortable time of waiting for the Lord? As an illustration of what I am trying to show, consider these two families. Both parents love their children and want to give them everything, but they go about it in different ways. In the first family, the parents give the children whatever they want whenever they want it, they are spoiled. For them, Christmas day is nothing special as its just another day when they get a gifts and they know more will come tomorrow. For them, it’s just part of the cycle and nothing special. For the second family, the parents have made a choice to only give gifts to their children on special days, like Easter, Birthdays, and Christmas. In this house, months before Christmas arrives there is already a spirit of great expectation as the children look forward to the gifts they will receive at Christmas. They dream about what they might get and how they will use their new toys and enjoy them so much. Then when Christmas day comes, they are overjoyed to open the gifts under the tree. For months afterwards, they enjoy their Christmas gifts and benefit from them. Did you notice the difference? For the second family the result of the children waiting for their gifts actually brought them more excitement, joy, and happiness and it remained much longer.
I think that the Church asks us to experience the season of Advent so that we in a spiritual way can experience this. Advent is designed to stretch our hearts, enlarge them and make them more able to receive Jesus intensely and profoundly when Christmas day arrives. It offers us a pathway to greater and longer lasting Christmas Joy.
WAYS TO LIVE ADVENT: LOOKING FORWARD TO THE THREE COMINGS OF CHRIST
During Advent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us that we look for the three comings of Christ: At the beginning with His Nativity, at the End when He comes in Glory, and at every moment in between. I would like to use these three comings as a way to propose possible preparations to strengthen us during this season of waiting.
I. The Nativity. The birth of Jesus is one of the most important events in all of history. Much of the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament look to the promise of God, that he would send a Messiah, a Saviour, who would show us the way to God. In the first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear of this promise of God. A good practice during Advent is to follow the Mass readings each day. In these readings we can taste the anticipation of the Israelites as they long for the coming of Jesus.
II. The End. The Gospel reminds us that Jesus will come again at the end. Thinking about the end things can be very beneficial for us as they help us to keep our priorities straight. During this time of advent it would be good to consider, “Am I using my time well? For things that really matter?”
III. The Present. It’s not only that Jesus has come and will come again, but he also continues to come each day of our lives. We can experience his loving presence in our daily prayer and in the normal events of our lives. In a special way, he comes to us in the Holy Mass in the Holy Communion. Perhaps, this advent we could strive to deepen our prayer at the Holy Mass, maybe by reading more about it or by asking someone who prays the Mass well what they do to get so much out of it.
Waiting is hard. It’s not easy. We don’t like it and we aren’t good at it. Yet during this important period of Advent the Church challenges us to try to wait. By preparing well during this time of Advent we can stretch our hearts so that when Jesus comes on Christmas day we are able to receive him in a profound and lasting way.