I am writing this from our favourite doggie friendly motel the Islands Inn at Anacortes Washington. Unlike many doggie friendly motels these days it does not charge an arm and a leg for our Bonnie girl. We have just had a great Dutch breakfast (fresh baked bread, boiled egg real English marmalade and chocolate sprinkles) and are now getting ready to spend a day in retreat so this will be my only blog post for today. I love to go on retreat at this season. It is a great way to refocus and refresh and a wonderful preparation for the coming of Christ and our hope and anticipation of the coming of God’s new world of wholeness and completeness.
This morning’s post comes from Kristin Tennant a freelance writer and blogger at Halfway to Normal. She, her husband and three daughters live, learn, play and worship in Urbana Illinois.
I love the feeling of anticipation. There are many things, big and small, that I anticipate, but nothing encompasses the feeling quite like Advent—that season when waiting is perfectly wrapped in anticipation, and presented as the best of gifts.
Anticipation is what makes the waiting delicious and bearable.
As a child, following the well-worn path of rituals and traditions leading up to the candle-light Christmas Eve service worked its magic on me. Several Decembers later, as a college student, I waited for that moment when my last final exam was handed in and I could hurry through the Michigan winter back to my dorm room, finish packing, and head home. One Advent years later, I was reading a book that described, week by week, exactly how the baby in my womb was forming.
Waiting. Anticipating. Counting down the days to a known end-point, a known result: Christmas will come. Exam week will end. This baby will be born.
Now, as I reflect on the idea of “waiting,” it feels like a different creature—one void of anticipation. Sure, there are still specific moments I wait for with anticipation, like the family vacation we’re planning for the summer. So much of my waiting, though, has become more complex. I wait for a sign, for a change of heart. I wait for inspiration and direction, for complete healing and reconciliation. I wait for the life I live each day to align with the life I envision in my head and crave in my soul.
In other words, the things I really find myself waiting for can’t be marked on the calendar. There aren’t four candles to light, one each week, as I grow nearer to that point of arrival. The anticipation is stripped away, and I’m left with the waiting—periods of hope clouded by periods of doubt: Am I waiting for the right things? Am I hoping for too much? Will I even know when the waiting is over?
As I sat in church the first Sunday of Advent, though, I realized that’s exactly the kind of waiting we’re actually doing, as Jesus-followers. I mean, it’s important that we observe Advent as a journey toward December 25, the specific day we celebrate God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. It’s important to teach our children that waiting can be active and so rewarding, and to demonstrate it with wreaths of candles and special calendars with small doors to open, gradually revealing the full picture.
But it’s that full picture—the really big one—that we’re actually waiting for. We’re waiting for things on earth to be as they are in heaven, and we don’t have a date on the calendar for that, any more than I have a date for when I’ll stop feeling hurt about difficult things in my past.
It’s true, sometimes it feels like the most futile of waiting games. We do have God’s promises, though. One of the scriptures read at my church yesterday was Jeremiah 33:19-26, where God tells Jeremiah that he can count on God’s covenant promises as much as Jeremiah counts on the rising of the sun following each night.
Those promises take what seems so abstract and uncertain in our waiting, and wraps it in the kind of anticipation we need to keep moving forward in hope.
Kristin Tennant is a freelance writer and author of the blog Halfway to Normal. She, her husband and their three daughters live, learn, play and worship in Urbana, Illinois.