Growing up, before my brother and I were old enough to tell time, my parents had a hard rule for Christmas morning: we were not allowed to wake them up to open presents until it was light outside. As an adult, I now applaud my parents for this brilliant guideline. Mid-December sunrise times average well-past 7:00 a.m., meaning a decent night’s sleep for Mom and Dad. As a kid, however, without a clock to measure the night’s passing, it was torturous.
One year, I vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night, crawling to the end of my bed and behind the window shade, laying my head on the windowsill, and waiting for any hint of change in the night sky. I waited and waited; convincing myself at numerous times that yes, in fact, the sky had possibly changed from dark black to not-so-dark black. The anticipation of the gifts that awaited me in the daylight was unbearable – I was unable to focus on anything but the time that the night would end and Christmas morning could finally begin.
I can easily say that at this point in my life, there is nothing that rivals the joyous anticipation I felt in those magical years as a child, waiting for the glorious bliss that was Christmas morning. I am grateful that anything in this life can feel so wonderful and exciting.
But then I grew up.
I still often feel the same all-consuming impatience as I did on those childhood Christmas Eves. In fact, it sometimes feels like all I do is wait. Instead of joyful anticipation, however, it’s essentially mind-numbing frustration. At 28, a large majority of my friends are married, several with children, and I’m still very, very single. I’ve spent almost two cumulative years of my post-college life unemployed after unexpected layoffs, waiting for another job. I currently spend a decent amount of my life in traffic, in lines, in holding patterns. Quite often, and hopefully like many twenty-something’s (I’d like to think I’m not alone here), I feel like I’m waiting for my real life to start.
As I wrote above, I realized my Christmas Eve reference is exactly how I feel (or have felt) as I wait for significant changes or milestones in my life. With no method by which to gauge when the wait is going to end, no clock to know how much time remains, it seems as if the sky will always be dark. The sunrise could be hours or mere minutes away, but in the present, the wait is all consuming.
That’s why I love this season of Advent so much. I love that amid the madness in the weeks before Christmas, we can take the time to be still and revel in waiting, as we prepare for the arrival of our Savior. Rather than just lighting the weekly colored candles on the Advent wreath, I like to think about the years before His birth. About the time between when His coming was prophesied and when He finally arrived. For years and years, His people waited. I would imagine at times it seemed as if His arrival was just ahead, and at times it seemed as if He would never, ever come. But throughout the Bible you can see the preparations, the groundwork being laid. The entire world was spinning madly toward that winter night in Bethlehem. In their waiting, His birth was always imminent, even when it seemed as if the night beforehand would never end.
In a world of instant gratification, it’s weird to celebrate and place custom and liturgy in the wait, because most of the time we only operate with the end in mind. But in this case, we know the end. We know the final outcome. We know that as we anticipate the humble and glorious arrival of Jesus, we can also rest in the fact that He came. He was with us. He rescued us from all of our brokenness and replaced the dark with the light. The wait for His birth was not arbitrary or useless – it was a time of preparation, even when it may have seemed nothing was occurring.
I find great comfort in this reality. Even when it seems like my present circumstances will never be altered, I know the Lord is still at work in my life. Each minute that passes channels me further into His story for me, even when the minutes pass so slowly I can’t bear it. I love Advent because it encourages me that instead of focusing on when the end of the waiting will come, I should revel in the fact that the wait has purpose too.
Recently, my pastor noted that when Jesus came, His people weren’t necessarily expecting Him to leave again. His arrival, death, and resurrection, in their minds, was the final act. His Ascension wasn’t part of the plan. Since then, we’ve all been thrown back into another season of Advent. He’s asked us to prepare, anticipate and wait again. In the meantime, the night is dark. It’s remarkably easy to see the brokenness of our world. But even when it seems like nothing will ever change, every moment brings us closer to a time when the untainted joy I experienced as a child on Christmas will be restored. The sadness and cynicism and brokenness that surround us every day will be removed and the potent longing of our entire existence will finally be satisfied.
Advent is a beautiful reminder to me that waiting has a purpose. It’s just as important as the end result, and that while our lives should be spent in anticipation of the time when the Lord will finally fulfill His promises to us, we shouldn’t neglect exhibiting patient and reverent respect for the moments that pass in the meantime. Every part of our stories is designed to point the world toward Him and His glory in preparation for His second arrival. This Advent, let’s not just celebrate His faithfulness two thousand years ago, but the fact that He is and always will be faithful to us, no matter how long the night may seem.
Chelsea Cote is a Type A twenty-something residing in Charlotte, NC. A non-profit develoment manager by day, Chelsea loves Jesus, her family, her giant cat Liam, decorating her teeny tiny house, art in all its forms, gummy candy, thrifting, liquid eyeliner, and watching Downton Abbey and Friends reruns. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cdcote and read her thoughts on faith, fashion and everything in between at bloomingbranch.blogspot.com.