This Advent…Can We Actually Wait?
by Soren & Ever Johnson
“First, a controversy,” our new parochial vicar began a recent Advent homily. “When is it okay to decorate for Christmas?”
After nervous laughter rippled through the sanctuary, and more than a few spouses got jabbed in the ribs, he reminded us that the Church sets aside an entire octave to celebrate Christmas. Lest we forget, this octave doesn’t begin in November—when we start to see decorations in stores. It begins on the vigil of Christmas. And then, he said something unexpected.
We thought he would advise holding off on decorating until Christmas Eve, in order to fully inhabit the season of penitence and waiting in expectation of our Lord. But instead, he said, “How about going a bit more slowly? Maybe get your tree and put the lights on, but don’t put all the ornaments on until Christmas Eve,” he suggested.
You could just feel the tension dissipate and love for our newest priest grow. Nervous smiles turned genuine as we all thought, “That sounds doable.” Knowing the futility of telling us that we should change all of our bad habits at once, Father went easy and suggested small steps. He understands the burden of change.
Wait and Prepare
Though change we must. Our culture has taught us to see waiting—for anything…the delivery of an Amazon package, our order at the restaurant, even sexual intimacy—as a waste of time. Inefficient. Old-fashioned. And it’s phenomenally easy to just be swept along in our consumer culture’s push to frenetic shopping, activity, and having it all now.
Against this powerful cultural push, Christian families must push back, but we can’t change everything at once. We need to take small steps and enact a realistic plan to change our habits to build up God’s kingdom instead of the world. Instead of heeding the call to immediate gratification, we should at least make some space to hear our Lord’s invitation to wait and to prepare.
The Joy of Anticipation
Because isn’t so much of true enjoyment—a little taste of heaven on earth—found in anticipation? Do we really enjoy the things we get right away or do we rightly only truly savor the things we waited and worked for? As we take the invitation to wait as an invitation to true enjoyment, let’s think about how so much of building a Trinity House is oriented toward this type of slow build.
We slow down on the Sabbath so that we can take that enjoyment into the rest of the week. We take time with each other because we want the pleasure of living in a family with healthy relationships. We share hard work in the home so that we can have the satisfaction of having provided for one another. We extend our family meals and linger at the table because that kind of togetherness is the whole point of life.
So, working a bit of true waiting into Advent—cultivating a vein of quieter preparation—is just another form of building a truly memorable and enjoyable time of celebration. Absent this type of intentionality, it’s unrealistic to think that we can wake up on Christmas morning and just step into a breathtaking experience of the joy, peace, and beauty of God’s greatest gift.
Father was right. It is controversial to try to slow down the celebration of Christmas and use Advent instead to anticipate what he called “the paradox of what is to come and what has already happened.” But if a deeply meaningful and enjoyable celebration is what we’re after—and we can probably all agree on that—let’s challenge our families to gradually grow in our appreciation for and practice of anticipation.