The closer that it gets to Christmas, the harder it seems for my kids to wait. As they gather and make presents for each other, me and my wife, and family and friends, their excitement literally bubbles. They want to share what they made for their siblings. They want to show me the wrapped version of gifts. They yearn to have their recipients open what they have in store.
They also have visions of what they hope they will get for Christmas dancing through their heads, too. After putting up our tree this evening, they imagined what it will look like with presents underneath. They talked with friends this afternoon online and they exchanged intel on the gifts they hope will come on Christmas morning.
They cannot wait until Christmas.
Waiting, as my kids will tell you, is hard.
This type of waiting has a definitive endpoint. Yet, it is still difficult, especially as we inch closer to Christmas. Anticipation mounts.
Come on, Christmas!
We have all experienced a different, albeit still frustrating, type of waiting this year: COVID-19 and when it will end.
At first we thought it would be over by summer. Then we hoped it might go away before the holidays. Now, even with accelerated vaccines in distribution, the end might is still unknown although it may, hopefully, be on the horizon.
Whereas waiting for Christmas morning brings excitement and hopeful anticipation, waiting for an unknown endpoint can bring frustration, anger, and dejection. There is no excitement when you do not know when, or even if, things will change.
Waiting, as we can all attest to, is hard.
Yet, waiting is a key ingredient to the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. We are called to repent and "make straight the way of the Lord" so that on Christmas our celebration has room for Christ in addition to all of the presents and parties.
In a sense, waiting is a key ingredient to life. As I have to remind my kids all the time, they are not yet adults. Whether it is getting a smart phone or staying up later or driving a car or voting or fill-in-the-blank with another adult activity, there are many aspects of life that we have to wait for. Learning to read, receiving first Holy Communion, multiplying, whistling and many other skills and events are also opportunities to practice the art of waiting.
But, perhaps the true lesson in how to wait comes from these later examples. Whereas my four-year-old son is soaking up a lot about his letters and sounds and vocabulary, he will not just hit a magical age or season of life and know how to read. Similarly, receiving Holy Communion or driving or multiplying all require preparation. Yes, there are certain development stages that need to pass - a certain degree of logical reasoning, physical maturation, a law with age restrictions - but none of these things just happen if all you do is wait for them.
Instead, we must actively wait. We have to practice our addition facts before we can multiply. We need to go through sacramental preparation in order to be ready to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We need to pass tests, thankfully, before we can have a license to drive.
And, we can't just wait until Christmas to make room in the inn of our hearts for Christ. Whereas He can do anything, including breaking through a Grinch-cold heart on Christmas morning, chances are good our hearts will be as empty as boxes by mid-morning on Christmas unless we actively wait.
Start by spending even just 60 seconds over the course of these final 9 days before Christmas just thinking about how much He loves you.
Or, pray a good, honest, authentic prayer. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation with Jesus. Talk to Him.
Maybe, if you're up for it, accept the Advent Rosary Challenge and pray one Rosary between now and Christmas. Or, pray one each day. As I've said before, Mary brought Jesus into the world after 9 months of actively waiting for Him throughout her pregnancy. She can bring Him to you in 9 days if you ask her.
Need some encouragement like my kids because you're tired of waiting? Consider praying this prayer from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Trust in the work of God. He is who He says. Believe.
Finally, consider receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just like you used to clean the house before someone actually came over to your house, clean out your heart for the most important Guest to arrive there on Christmas.
Be willing to wait for it, actively.