“Have more later,” my toddler echoed, nodding his head sagely before scampering off. He had wanted more dessert, but when I said he was done for the moment — and that perhaps he could have more later in the day — he was satisfied. This phase, where my toddler often readily agrees to my directives, strikes me as odd. Why would he so easily and readily (most of the time, that is) postpone his desire for more of something — whether it be dessert, playtime, or a drink — as long as he has the reassurance that he will “have more later”? This seems to be a strange phase that he is going through, and I have found myself learning from him.
As much as I disdain the culture of instant gratification, I must confess that I often fall into its mindset. I want to see instant results, instant changes. I don’t like waiting for things; I want to have them now. Yet, as I wrestle with these desires, my toddler is cheerfully postponing his desires on the promise of “have more later.” His show of restraint, done with peaceful and hopeful anticipation, is so fitting for this time of year. We are in Advent now, and in this time we prepare for the coming of Christ. While we are filled with joy, we are also filled with longing. It is not Christmas yet; we still have several days to go before celebrating the birth of Christ. Our churches reflect this reality. The décor is simple, with emphasis placed on the Advent wreath. The liturgies are restrained, holding back from the full joy and celebration of Christmas.
What will I do in this time? Will I let myself be guided by my typical impatience and move through this season distracted and annoyed? Or will I fully enter into the peaceful restraint of these days, filled with hope? When I participate in beautiful traditions like the Jesse Tree or Advent wreath, am I doing them halfheartedly, or am I fully entering into the prayerful silence of the season? Furthermore, will I bring this interior disposition of prayer and hopeful anticipation to other parts of my life?
My three-month-old sleeps next to me as I write this, and I think back to pregnancy all those months ago. While many women hit a point when they are “done” with pregnancy, many of my friends and I have observed that it is good that pregnancy is nine months long. All of these months are an excellent time to prepare physically for birthing and caring for a baby. Not only that, but they are especially beneficial for mental preparation. The weeks and months of pregnancy, while tiresome, are a chance to prepare one’s mind and heart for welcoming another member of the family.
These weeks of Advent can feel long. When the rest of the world is already celebrating Christmas, we find ourselves in church singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” for what feels like the hundredth time. Yet, these weeks are important. They are a chance to truly prepare our minds and hearts for Christ. They are a time when we can make changes in our lives, so that we can imitate Christ more perfectly.
As my toddler moves the figurines of Mary and Joseph gradually toward the Nativity scene in our home, I can remember Advent is a journey. I’m not supposed to remain in one place; I need to move closer to God. This growth, this change, can be very uncomfortable, and even painful at times. However, it is so important. Instead of simply letting Advent happen while I bide my time until Christmas, will I fully enter into this season? Will I let this journey of Advent truly change me?
Copyright 2018 AnneMarie Miller