“Christmas has lost its meaning for us because we have lost the spirit of expectancy. We cannot prepare for an observance. We must prepare for an experience.” ~Handel H. Brown
When I was a little girl, my mom had a tiny 6 inch tv in the kitchen where she would watch Julia Child on PBS and Guiding Light on CBS. On Christmas Eve, she would set up that tiny television in my brother’s room. Ian and I would build a blanket fort around it and prepare for what we now call The Long Wait.
Remember how December used to drag on glacially when you were a child? How the last week of school before Christmas break crept by at a snail’s pace? But nothing felt as eternal as Christmas Eve. Jacked up on hot chocolate and the possibility of Santa Claus, Ian and I would wake several times in the night, the clock mocking us. 12:52 am. 2:34 am. 4:07 am. Finally, we would turn on the tiny television for The Long Wait.
You see, in the 70’s, you couldn’t watch television all night because most channels signed off at midnight (NBC always played the Star Spangled Banner) and the first program didn’t start until 6:00 am. The rule in our house was that we couldn’t wake our parents and open gifts until The Early Show came on. So Ian and I watched the test pattern for almost two hours (please stand by…), waiting for the magical moment when we got to run screaming into the dining room to see if Santa had visited in the night.
Waiting. Human beings are an ever impatient species, constantly searching for instant gratification. We don’t like to wait. Yet it is a given. We wait for the marriage, the birth, the water to boil, the next season of our favorite show. We wait for our kids to go off to college and then wait for them to return home for the holidays. We wait for the right job, then the promotion, then retirement. We wait in line and on the phone. We wait on the bus, on the red light, on the covid vaccine.
Seems to me that since so much of our life is waiting, our happiness might depend on our ability to wait well, to see waiting as a gift of precious time.
Because while I barely remember the gifts Santa brought most years, I cherish the time Ian and I spent in The Long Wait. That sort of waiting was filled with joy, wonder, and hope, a giddy anticipation that the future was going to be amazing. There was so much beautiful life in The Long Wait.
And isn’t that the whole point of the Advent season? My readers are familiar with my take on the Old Testament God as a vindictive jerk. OT God seemed to make empty promises about salvation and brighter days, then bandied about pestilence and plague.
But even Grinches have hearts. Because after years and years of making the Israelites wait, God made good on his promise and sent the world a tiny baby in a manger that changed everything.
Do you feel like 2020 has been a steady diet of empty promises? Do you feel as if Life has abandoned you? Keep waiting. Through the uncertainty, the fear, the sadness, the anger. Just as the Old Testament believers prepared their hearts for salvation, so can we create space in our hearts and minds for a better future.