Wait a minute.
The waiting game.
Good things come to those who wait.
Just wait and see.
Wait for it.
Hurry up and wait.
There are a multitude of expressions that involve waiting. Tomorrow begins the season of waiting: Advent. Advent describes the four weeks prior to Christmas. It's a time to reflect and ponder and patiently wait for Jesus to come.
But wait right there. Didn't Jesus already come? Why would we have to wait for him? Well, yes, Jesus did already come to dwell among us. There are actually three "comings of Christ" that people are describing when they talk about Jesus' arrival in our world: the Jesus who came as a baby and was born in Bethlehem, the Jesus who daily comes into our hearts and lives, and the Jesus who will come again at the end of time.
As we wait for Jesus during the season of Advent, we're anticipating all three. By setting aside a season of waiting and not just skipping ahead to Christmas morning, we honor the importance of patience in all our lives and in the story of God's love for the world. We can't just skip to the last page; we have to wait because the book is still being written!
Some prefer to celebrate Advent by hanging special greenery or decorations in their homes at the beginning of the season. Other people like to use an Advent calendar or devotional resource (a free Advent devotion called "Joy to the World"is available for download from Luther Seminary).
Whether it's singing special hymns, setting aside quiet time in the morning or breathing and stretching every evening, all are healthy ways to practice waiting. And it really does take practice for most of us. Patience is an internal muscle that benefits from strength training, and Advent is a glorious antidote to a culture that often fixates on instant gratification.
Back in 1839, a Lutheran pastor in Germany was looking for a way to empower young people to flex their waiting muscles. His name was Johann Hinrich Wichern, and he founded a school for children without families and financial resources. As Christmas drew near, he noticed that the kids at the school were growing increasingly impatient. Every morning they would wake up and ask if it was Christmas yet.
Wichern came up with an idea: He built a wreath with 19 red candles and four white candles. Every weekday and Saturday, the children and the pastor would light one of the red candles and talk about Jesus and the story of Christmas, and on Sundays they would light a white candle. And just like that, the Advent wreath was invented! Wichern's great idea was the prototype which eventually evolved into the wreaths with four candles that many congregations utilize today.
May your Advent adventure be one marked with the beauty of a good wait. What a true gift it is to have four weeks to make room in our hearts and lives for the source of the season.