Season of waiting has lessons to teach us all

Waiting is difficult - and we don't get much practice doing it any more.

We used to have to wait for our favorite show to be on TV, for the weatherman to tell us the high for the day, for a trip to the library to check out a book. We even used to have to wait for the rotary dials to tch, tch, tch, back to zero seven times in order to make a call.

Now TV shows, weather forecasts and books are available in an instant on our phones. We can call anywhere in the world by touching a single icon.

Occasionally we are forced to experience annoying waits, perhaps in line at the grocery store or for the customer service representative to pick up (or for the automated system to realize we've said "customer service representative" in the first place!).

And, as much as we'd like to avoid it, life always furnishes more painful times of waiting as well - for the test results or the diagnosis. To see if the surgery or treatment was successful. For the grief to subside. For the relationship to be repaired.

If we're lucky, those waits are few and far between, with heavy doses of more pleasurable waiting - for the upcoming wedding or anniversary - to be celebrated.

So Advent is an interesting concept in the 21st century, a season devoted to an activity most of us abhor.

The message at church Sunday morning was to spend these days waiting for Christmas fully awake and alert. I confess I was not feeling particularly alert as I listened to the sermon. With a sick husband and sleeping teen at home, I decided my best bet of making it to church was to attend the early service. I probably should have had one more cup of coffee before I arrived.

The danger, we heard from the pulpit, is falling asleep to Advent, so to speak, as we focus on finding the perfect presents or decorating the house so it's worthy of a magazine spread.

We can put ourselves to sleep in other ways, too, by spending all of our time looking at our phones or by consuming substances that numb us to whatever we don't want to feel.

We need to stay alert, the pastor said, to that for which we wait during Advent - the birth of the baby Jesus.

Rev. Young-Mee Park posted a similar message on the First United Methodist Church of Hinsdale's Facebook page on Sunday.

"To wait is to believe - believe in what is coming. To wait is to not settle with the way things are but to live with hope, awake and alert. To wait is to watch for the signs of God at work, ready to participate, ready to join in."

As I reflected, I realized no matter how much I love Christmas, I can fall victim to focusing on all of its trappings. I decorate and forget to spend peaceful moments appreciating the beauty. I shop and wrap and ship the gifts, sometimes without thinking about the greatest gift of all.

And I've realized, as I've been writing this column, that Sunday's message resonates with one I read every Christmas Day before dinner. The passage, from an unknown author, appears in Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Simple Abundance."

"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things, if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have to time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life."

Wishing you an awake and alert Advent season.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean