Baxter is not very patient. I have had talks with him about this trait of his, but to no avail. When he wants something, he wants it NOW. There is no persuading him to defer his desire for a while, no matter what the reason might be. I’m hungry, so feed me NOW. I’m thirsty, so turn the spigot on NOW. I want into the garage, so open the door NOW. He signals his impatience with an insistent meow that is non-stop and cannot be ignored. It is in your face with a nagging sound that is relentless and annoying. Baxter can’t wait for even a few seconds when he has set his mind on what he wants.
He is like the world selling Christmas to all of us. After Halloween, it is all Christmas — lights, music, decorations and gifts, many, many gifts in all categories and price ranges. The message is: “Don’t wait. They might sell out. You need to have this year’s trend setters in fashion, electronics, toys or a novelty fad. Without it, Christmas will be a major disappointment. After all, you won’t get what you want, and how can you be happy without it?”
Advent is about waiting. This is the “in-between time.” We live in anticipation of what will come, and we don’t try to short circuit the time for its arrival. We learn to appreciate the “in-between” character of this time, so that we can grasp the “in-between” nature of most of life.
We live between birth and death, between yesterday and tomorrow, between past successes and future accomplishments, between past failures and future mistakes. Life is lived between the markers like the boundaries on a playing field or the time clock in a game, and while we might desire a larger field or more time on the clock, we only learn to play the game well if we accept the boundaries and try to play within them. These limits make the game exciting. There has to be a goal line if you want to cross it for a score. There has to be a time limit to know how to play differently as the clock runs down. A marker tells us when we have reached the goal or when time has run out, and then we know whether or not we won.
Advent sets the boundaries for Christmas. The season shrinks as Christmas Day approaches, but it sets a direction as it grows shorter. From the general sense of God’s intervention into history to save Israel, to the specific focus on the announcement of Jesus’ birth, the time winds down to one moment in history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the turning point we were all hoping for when the momentum shifts and God’s rule prevails. From now on, the game is played differently. God’s presence and power is in-between the events of our lives, and we learn to look for Him there.
But we will never learn this lesson in salvation history unless we wait to see it unfold in the liturgical drama of our faith. Advent is this waiting period. Don’t let the world take it away from us with its promises of instant gratification of all our latest desires. Wait to know what you really want and to find it in the incarnate God shown in Jesus. This is the only way to foster genuine excitement about Christmas coming, and to know we won at life when the Risen Lord appears in His glory at the end of time.