GARCIA-LUENSE: An Advent to pause, wait and prepare

December 14, 2021

I am not always the most patient person. I don’t like waiting in line. I really don’t like waiting for my computer to boot up when I get to my office in the morning. In my life, waiting and moving slowly and deliberately more often give way to urgency and immediacy.

I know that I am not alone in this regard. It seems that our society doesn’t particularly prize waiting either. Advertising is full of buzzwords like “quick,” “easy” and “convenient.” Two-day delivery now seems slow and plodding in an era of same-day delivery. During this pandemic, I think most of us have experienced the frustration of waiting for a return to normal, especially since when that might come is unknown to us still. I don’t think there is anything inherently bad in wanting our groceries, fast food, furniture, or post-pandemic life as soon as possible. But still, there are some instances in which patience and waiting can be virtues.

Waiting patiently is intentional and is a choice. It can cause us to slow down and look more clearly and more deeply. Patient waiting can open us up to ideas and realizations that would never have occurred to us had we been in more of a hurry. Patient waiting also has the ability to help us grow in anticipation and longing.

Most of us have been taught that it isn’t a good idea to go looking for hidden Christmas presents early and peek; there is something good about allowing the anticipation to build and being surprised on Christmas morning. Cooking is another example of patient waiting. On the days when we have time to slow-cook a roast, the savory smell permeates the entire house, and it whets our appetites. Our satisfaction when we sit down to the meal hours later is heightened by the anticipation. Of course, the adage that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” speaks to this idea as well.

We are now in the middle of the season of Advent. It is good to remind ourselves that this season is intended to be about patience, waiting, anticipation and longing. I think that our society has seemingly forgotten this. Rather than spending the first part of this month getting ourselves ready for Christmas, some people have been celebrating Christmas since shortly after Halloween. Some of us had already put up our Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

Our anticipation is displaced as well by companies who misunderstand the traditional “12 days of Christmas” and have events that run from Dec. 13 to 24 rather than Dec. 25 to Jan. 5. I remember one year when I hosted a Christmas celebration at my home the evening of Dec. 25. I spent the afternoon preparing the house and meal while I listened to Christmas music play on a radio station. This station had been playing Christmas music non-stop for a month. Before the first guest arrived that very evening, the radio station ceased playing Christmas music and returned to regular programming.

Rather than rant against societal norms or feel forced to ignore what is around us, perhaps we can still make room to embrace the ancient wisdom of our Church to prepare ourselves with patient waiting.

We can choose some forms of waiting and increase our anticipation and longing so that the celebration of Christmas itself is fuller and more life-giving.

How often do we hear and read of people who find the “holiday season” exhausting and anxiety-producing? How much does our inability to wait and prepare instead of being thrust headlong into an intensive celebration of six to eight weeks contribute?

Though there still may be Christmas parties to come before Christmas, let us challenge ourselves with what is left of this Advent, to pause, wait and prepare our minds and hearts, as well as our homes, just a little bit. Then, Dec. 25 might seem more like the celebration it is intended to be. 

Brian Garcia-Luense is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.