We flew to Michigan earlier this week. It was our first time on a plane with the baby, and the first time that I can remember ever having travelled by air around the holidays. We flew El Paso to Denver, sat in Denver for about four hours, and then on to Grand Rapids. It was a long layover in Denver and as I looked out at the sun setting over the Rockies and tried to trick J into sleeping amidst the noise and stimulation of the airport terminal I started to think about waiting.
We had a long time to wait for that plane. Lots of other people were waiting for planes too. Lots of people were facing delays. The restaurants were full of people waiting for food, and workers likely waiting for their shifts to end. The carousels were surrounded by people waiting for luggage. A man with a puppy walked past us, quickly and purposefully, trying to persuade the puppy to wait until they could find a way to get outdoors. I knew that in another part of the airport there would be hundreds of people waiting in arrival areas, eager to hug and kiss their friends and relatives as they got of planes just in time for Christmas. Everyone at an airport is waiting for something.
I thought about the things that we as a family are waiting for. We recently waited for a baby, and now he’s here, people-watching with us in this airport. We are waiting with enthusiasm to see parents, grandparents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends during our time in Michigan, and to reconnect a little bit with them. To learn about the things that they are waiting for in their lives. We are waiting, with some sadness, for our time in Mexico to end in the summer. We are waiting to see what the next chapter is like. We wait with hope, fear, joy, doubt, and every other feeling that humans are capable of. Waiting seems to be a central feature of the human condition.
There is a lot that people wait for. A bus to arrive. Cookies to bake. Test results to arrive. An email or a phone call, that may or may not come. A visa. A home. Peace. We wait for good, beautiful things, just as we we wait for awful, heartbreaking things. We wait, because there is not much else that we can do. Human technology and understanding have come a long way, but we have not been able to completely overcome that obstacle of time that requires us to sit, be patient, and reflect upon that which is to come.
The Christmas season pushes us to embrace this waiting. We watch the decorations come out, and the gifts slowly collect around the foot of the tree. We consider the empty stockings hanging on the fireplace (or in our case on the bannister…no fireplace in our Mexican house), anticipating the tasty goodies that will soon fill them to overflowing. We monitor our text messages to see how close the relatives are to arriving. The refrigerator and pantry fill up with goodies, the makings of a feast. This year I consider my infant son as these things transpire around him, waiting for him to be old enough to understand and share in the joy of the anticipation.
Advent is about waiting. Many of these traditions started to help us to think about the arrival of Jesus. The Jewish people waited for centuries for Messiah to arrive, bringing freedom and fulfillment. Many still wait. We wait now for His second coming; for that day when all wrongs will be put right, all tears will be dried, and death will finally and fully be defeated. We wait for that day, even as we work to bring about peace and justice in the present. We light the candles. We decorate the tree. We wrap the gifts. We cook the food.
For some people it is a meaningless exercise in the tradition of consumerism. For me, I revel in the spirit of anticipation. The gifts may not provided ultimate fulfillment. The food may give me heartburn. Family may occasionally frustrate me. But the anticipation of good things fosters a spirit of hope and optimism that can be cultivated throughout the year. And what do we need, after all, in times like these if not hope and optimism? Come, Lord Jesus. Teach us hope. Teach us joy. Teach us to be the fulfillment of the hope that others have, when we are able.
Best wishes to you, dear reader, for a Happy Holiday season. We are glad that you have read our blog, and we hope that you continue to come back in 2017 and beyond.