Waiting for presents on Christmas morning was never the hard part.
When I was a kid, my family would celebrate Advent by lighting the candles of our Advent wreath each night at dinner. Our wreath (like many) had five candles—one for each of the four Sundays before Christmas, and one special white candle, taller than all of the others, that was lit only on Christmas Eve.
I always wanted to light all the candles all at once. The white one sat there in the middle, its wick still stuck to the wax, unburned, for almost a month.
One Christmas Eve, I asked my mom why we couldn’t light it earlier.
“It’s because we’ve been waiting for Jesus to come,” she said as she struck a match and held it up to the new wick. “And now, we don’t have to wait anymore.”
The Truth About Advent
Of course, Jesus came to earth a long time ago. And it’s not like the Israelites started burning purple candles during the last month of Mary’s pregnancy. We don’t have to wait for the Messiah anymore—and we haven’t had to for a long time.
But the Advent season is a celebration of waiting in more ways than one. It is a time for remembering the long wait that led to Christ’s first coming, but it’s also a reminder that we are still waiting for him to return. And, as we wait for God to show up in different corners of our lives, it’s a season that often speaks deeply to our weary souls.
We’re waiting for a job. For a phone call. For an answer to all of our “whys” and “where tos.” Sometimes we’re even waiting for our faith to show its face again.
We wait a lot, and we almost never have the privilege of looking forward to a specific date, like December 24, when we know the waiting will end. Even though we know in theory that God Is with Us, we still sing for Emmanuel to come. We do not know how many days, hours, or years it will be until we can have the joy of lighting the white candle.
But every Christmas Eve, we remember that God made good on his promise, and that he will keep his word.
While We Wait
Still, waiting can be a tricky and painful experience. Whatever you’re waiting for this Advent season, here are some ways to wait well.
1. Actually wait.
This seems obvious and stupid, but we often try to escape the waiting, even during Advent (which, after all, is specifically set aside for waiting). So consciously offer your situation to God, rather than trying to control your circumstances and their timing. Recognize the discomfort of waiting, and also recognize that God is with you in that discomfort.
2. Don’t stop living.
There is a time to pause, but waiting does not have to be a passive activity. How can you seek God’s kingdom now? What is your wait not hindering you from doing?
3. Pray, even if you don’t want to.
Some of my most powerful and sincere prayers were raised when I didn’t think anyone was there to receive them. Those are the prayers in whose answers I most rejoice.
4. Thank God for the answer.
You may not have it yet, but God is the God of time—even this time. He knows where your life is headed, and why. Whatever it is that you are waiting for, offer it to God not just as a prayer of supplication, but also as a prayer of thanks. Thank him for the plan that he has for you and that he has made that plan lovingly. Thank him for this season of waiting. Thank him for his wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty, now and always.
May God bless this waiting Advent season. And when Christmas Eve comes, no matter what your traditions are, I hope you find a little joy in remembering that the long, painful wait for a Savior was answered by God himself—incarnate, taking on flesh and blood to be with us.
He is with us still.
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Laura Li-Barbour.
In this month of Advent, our thoughts usually turn to Jesus and Mary. Yet lately I’ve found that I’m more drawn to Elizabeth. Perhaps it’s because I’m older. Or maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to yearn for something and then to see days, months, years pass without having that yearning fulfilled.