As a young boy, I was not particularly patient. The act of waiting for anything that seemed exciting was nearly intolerable: awaiting the results of a school test; waiting to go trick-or-treating on Halloween; waiting to attend parties at Christmas with Christmas cake and Christmas candy; waiting for the magic of Christmas Eve Mass, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus. Nothing ever happened fast enough, and I was not at all happy about it. As with most children, time seemed to stretch out endlessly, sort of like Bart Simpson watching for the classroom clock to strike 3:00 p.m. only to see the minute hand inexplicably move back in time three minutes. For me as a child, waiting was like that.
As the years went by, I began to better understand the idea of waiting and preparing in joyful hope for something that was ultimately very good. When I began my studies at University, I understood that the ultimate goal was to graduate, but it did not occur to me at first how significant the preceding time of work and preparation would be. The date of graduation seemed so unimaginably far away that I spent more time focusing on preparing for that day (with a party or two thrown in there) than I did on wishing the day was close at hand. I soon learned that I had lots and lots to learn and experience before graduation day came, and that the years of preparation were necessary in order to experience this accomplishment.
It was through this experience at University that I was able to develop a better understanding of what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” It was the first time in my life that I became aware of how the journey was not just “putting in time” until I arrived at my destination. I could never have graduated without the endless studying, research, writing, editing, melodramatic nervous collapses and weekly existential crises. The journey in fact made the destination possible.
These days, I tend (try!) to look forward to things through the lens of someone a little older, with hopeful anticipation and cautious optimism. When the Prophet Isaiah spoke of “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” approximately 750 years before the actual birth of Jesus Christ, one can imagine that through the centuries, the people living in darkness would have become skilled at awaiting his arrival with joy and hope. We have had lots of time to consider this, and due to our weekly reminder at the Eucharist, our hope remains alive. This Advent promise of light, life, and salvation carried and comforted those of Old Testament times, and made their difficult lives brighter, much as it does for us today in 2013. So, this Advent Season, as I go through my daily joys and frustrations, I shall continue the work of preparing myself for the arrival of Christ in our midst. In doing so, I am reminded that my baptism has already sparked within me this light of God’s love, making the wait for Christ’s a little more tolerable.
This will be miracle enough, for now.