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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 4, 2021
By Father Jason Tyler
Can you believe it’s already December? What happened to fall? It seems like just yesterday, leaves started changing colors, and now we can look around and see almost no leaves on most of our trees. Hunters have enjoyed deer season for a while and now prepare for modern gun season to wrap up.
I’ve never been much of a hunter, but when I hear people talk about it, there seems to be a lot of waiting involved — sitting in a tree stand for hours at a time before even getting an opportunity to take a shot.
During Advent, we prepare spiritually to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, and we prepare to meet him when he comes again. That preparation involves waiting, but we can embrace that waiting instead of dreading it.
I have to admit I don’t like the idea of waiting so long. Whether I’m waiting for an elevator or waiting for a stubborn stoplight to turn green, I easily find myself impatient. I don’t think I’m very different from a lot of others in my distaste for waiting. We want things, and we want them now. Whether it’s information on the Internet or food from a restaurant or whatever, faster is usually better.
Judging by how early the Christmas decorations go up in some places, it seems that much of the world especially doesn’t like to wait for Christmas. As Catholics, though, we know that Christmas has not arrived yet. We celebrate Advent now, and that season has its own dignity and needs its own place in our spiritual lives.
During this season of Advent, we wait for two comings of Jesus: One that took place at his birth more than 2,000 years ago and the other we call the second coming of Jesus.
Why does God make us wait? Historically, he could have sent his Son and Messiah many centuries earlier than he did; instead, Israel waited and waited for his coming. Advent challenges us to put ourselves into the mindset of the Jewish people of ancient times, who waited so long for the Messiah. As we think about the second type of waiting — waiting for the coming of Jesus in glory, one might ask, “Why does this world continue to exist? Why doesn’t God simply end the world now?” or “Why didn’t he do so after the death of the last apostle? Is God teasing us?”
Far from it. Rather than teasing us, God provides this time so that we can grow along the way. Even the various times of waiting in this world can also bring good fruit: Conversations with strangers waiting for an elevator, the fraternity that develops among hunters waiting for a deer or an extra moment to gather our thoughts or offer a prayer while stuck in traffic.
Similarly, God helps us grow through our Advent, waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus and our Advent waiting for this world to end. It’s not Christmas yet. Thank God it’s not; we have a beautiful opportunity to wait and even to enjoy the waiting. This world continues to exist so that we can participate in building up the kingdom of God.
While we live, God asks us to wait for his Son’s return. This waiting, however, is not a passive waiting as we would wait for an elevator. Instead, it is an active waiting. We wait not by simply standing back until the day happens. Rather, we wait with anticipation, conforming our lives to that of Jesus. We wait with anticipation and with preparation.
Jesus warns his followers in Luke 21:34-35 against becoming drowsy and allowing the final day to catch us by surprise “like a trap.” Of course, we will not know the day or the hour, so we must always be prepared. We prepare in so many ways for Christmas: decorating, shopping, parties and perhaps preparations for travel.
Why can’t we do just as much spiritual preparation? During Advent, we prepare spiritually to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, and we prepare to meet him when he comes again. That preparation involves waiting, but we can embrace that waiting instead of dreading it.