Advent hope

Practicing patience isn’t on the usual list of spiritual disciplines, but it is a skill that in my life that has definitely required practice. I think that I am a reasonably patient person these days, but it wasn’t always so. I was impulsive in my younger years. When I wanted something, I could invest a lot of energy in figuring out how to get it. Sometimes the quest for acquisition was more important and more fun than actually possessing the item. But life has taught me that a degree of patience is a positive value.

We do not live in an ear of history which will be noted for its patience. We cook our food in microwave ovens because conventional ovens are too slow. We use computers that are blindingly fast and continue to upgrade for more speed at every opportunity. Our consumption for data is so voracious that we demand faster and faster data transmission.The pace of life and the demand for quick decisions is increasing with every passing day.

Some things, however, are worth the wait. And the process of waiting can add value. Advent is a season that reminds us of the value of waiting. Never mind that the season was originally six weeks long and has been shortened. Never mind that most of society doesn’t observe Advent and goes directly to Christmas with decorations, music, and more appearing the day after Thanksgiving, and in some cases, right after Halloween.

The season of Advent can be hectic, with all of the Christmas shopping and all of the holiday concerts and all of the decorating and baking and extra meetings. But the invitation of Advent is to take things more slowly.

Advent reminds us of the process of pregnancy, which for us humans takes nine months. Preparing for the birth of a child is a process of growing excitement. It can also be a time of concern and worry. Each child is unique and there is no way to know in advance what the outcome will be. Having a child involves a lot of risks. There are risks to the health of the mother and there are risks to the health of the child as it develops. These days, with all of the advanced diagnostic and imaging tools that exist, there is a bit less surprise. Genders are known and revealed before the birth. Multiple births are detected and provided for. Some types of childhood disease and disability can be detected in utero.

Still, there is real mystery in each birth. It takes a while for a personality to become fully revealed. How it feels to hold a child cannot be described before it takes place.

Advent reminds us of that process of healthy waiting and anticipation.

My own discipline of patience involves not rushing too quickly to Christmas. Our home doesn’t sport too many decorations in the first place, but we aren’t decked out like some of the homes in our neighborhood. One of our neighbors’ homes was featured in the annual symphony league parade of homes which this year took place on November 4, with advance showings on November 3. That required a frenzied transformation from elaborate Halloween decorations to elaborate Christmas decorations in a little over a day. It was impressive to watch all of the work that was done. We, on the other hand, had a slower pace to our week.

We do engage in some preparations during Advent. With a daughter and son-ion-law in Japan, presents must be selected and shipped early in order to arrive for Christmas. We also ship packages to our grandchildren and their parents. More important than the external preparations and decorations, however, are the internal preparations. Christianity is a faith of perpetual expectation. The promise of a second coming of Christ leaves believers in an “in between” time as we celebrate the presence of the resurrected Christ in our lives and anticipate additional revelations and that which is yet to come. We live aware of our past, but also aware that there is much to come in the future.

In a sense, every life is a journey in an “in between” time. We collect memories from our past and we anticipate our future. Each of us is on a journey from brith to death and none of us possesses the ability to describe what precedes our birth or comes after our death. That doesn’t keep us from speculating. We have some very elaborate stories and ideas about what lies beyond the scope of this life. But we do not possess direct knowledge.

The season of anticipation is a season of hope. We live with an assurance that what lies ahead is good. Pain and suffering can e endured because of the promise of relief and consolation. The confusion and disorder and disillusionment of the present is not the only measure of the value of our existence. We believe in a brighter future and we live in hope.

Hope, however, can be fragile. It can be crushed by disappointment and grief. It can be buried under addictions and illnesses. I have encountered those who appear to have no hope, who are burdened with a sense of despair. It is not easy to craw out from the devastation of feeling that there is no future. Our faith, however, teaches us that hope is resilient. Hope abides. It endures. Even when it seems to be lost, it reappears again. And a tiny spark of hope can illuminate a world of despair.

As we wait, we are able to look for signs of hope. Small glimmers of hope might not at first be noticed, but once they come into focus they make a world of difference. As we wait and watch, we allow our spirits to be renewed.

I welcome this season of waiting. I’m in no rush for it to get over. I want to take it day by day at a pace that allows m to see the hope that surrounds us.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!