Celebrate the Holy Wait
by Tracy Hilts | December 6, 2021
Why in a world of instant everything would we celebrate waiting? A great paradox of Advent is that we wait for a blessing we know we already have. Why would we deliberately set our hearts in a posture of longing and anticipation for something that is already ours?
Advent requires an intentionality that does not come naturally to our western mindset. And yet every year, not as a biblical mandate but as a Christian cultural tradition, we relearn the lesson of waiting for someone precious—the Christ-child who brings us salvation.
Our shared celebration of waiting requires a willful adjustment of perspective. How we choose to look at something makes all the difference in what we see. Watching the joy of a child who is opening an Advent calendar can be an invitation to infuse each day with refreshed anticipation. We can open our spirit daily to heighten our sense of God’s promise and faithfulness. In the kingdom community, Advent is an opportunity for God to teach our hearts to celebrate waiting as a corporate spiritual discipline of trust. As our hearts swell toward Christmas, our carols, candles, and traditions of anticipation culminate in a global celebration of God’s faithfulness in bringing the Messiah to a manger. The starlight of Christmas and the sunrise of Easter are the foundations of faithfulness on the Christian calendar. Advent, like Lent, is a season of savoring God’s goodness and anticipating his favor. The holidays become the Holy Days.
I learned to savor the coming of Christ 25 years ago during a long December. My mom’s doctor said she would probably succumb to her cancer by the end of the month. I vividly remember turning the wall calendar in her kitchen from November to December and scanning down the days—wondering which date would be marked forever as her last. Each day came quicker than the previous day, yet there were minutes in each day that seemed to take hours to pass.
A great paradox of Advent is that we wait for a blessing we know we already have.
Actively waiting for a momentous event can distort time that way. Our journey was blessed by the perspective that Mom had a personal, salvation relationship with Jesus. She wanted to talk about heaven. Would the streets really be made of gold? Would she see her father right away? Would she recognize the baby son she lost in a traffic accident some 30 years prior? Mom was waiting for someone and something precious—her family members who had died before her and her heavenly home. Her perspective on waiting was bathed in the light of the hope just over the horizon, the hope of the coming Christ.
After 25 years, the lessons of that December are deeper and richer for me than ever. Advent is infused with waiting for healing. When sickness is in front of you or you’ve come face to heart with the brokenness of this world, you long for restoration. You may cry out like the psalmist in chapter 13 who said, “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” You may sing as Charles Wesley did, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”
The point of waiting isn’t the wait. The point of waiting is trust. When God heals a broken world by sending his Son or heals a broken body by bringing his daughter home, faithfulness shines through the darkness. Trust is strengthened, and our hearts are renewed. When we sing and gather and remind each other that Christ is coming, we bless our children with an example of faithfulness that reflects God’s. We give gifts and gather together because we know how the story ends, and we want to laugh and cherish the latest reenactment of the greatest story ever told. If your heart needs healing this season (and whose does not?), let us embrace a holy wait and let the days of Advent usher us into the peace and joy of our salvation.