Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Gift of Waiting

We are waiting for the end of advent,
but are we expecting the Christ child?
Or are our thoughts on ribbons and gifts
circling the tree like an electric train?
Christ is with us now, and yet we wait;
we hold our breath in anticipation.

Half the pleasure, you know, is anticipation.
The third candle, lit on the wreath of advent
burns joy—we are closer than half way—but wait!
Just wait a little longer. It is hard to be a child
waiting, not knowing, but the waiting trains
us to bide our time, hold still for the Gift.

We tell our children about the donkey carrying a gift,
wrapped in Mary’s womb. We smile at their anticipation,
watching them fidget, tiptoe, and whisper. Their train
of thought headed in one direction: the eve of Advent.
A ceramic nativity scene high on the mantle, a child
can only look, not touch. Like a spinster, we make them wait

for Christmas Eve, for the Bible lesson read aloud. Wait,
wait, wait. When all they want is to tear open the gifts
and shout, “Look what I got!” I was a once a child,
I remember. After the wrappings are undone, anticipation
fades. But here is another mystery, Advent
is not over. Epiphany comes like the twelve-fifteen train

down the tracks. We count down to twelve: the train
the days, the leaping lords. We watch and wait
for Epiphany, the bookend of a month-long advent.
Three Kings’ Day marks the twelfth night, marks with gifts,
the climax of Christmas. The waiting, the anticipation,
the longing are over. Now we celebrate the birth of our Christ-child

Somehow, compressed though it is, we watch this Jesus-child
grow up to be a miracle-man who calls his disciples and trains
them to wait. To wait and to watch with holy anticipation,
while he washes feet and feeds the hordes that also wait
for the time when the three wise men’s gifts
will be used to anoint and prepare the body of the King of Advent.

This anticipation we feel, like a child, eager and open,
leads us through the days of Advent and trains our hearts
to wait for the kismet of Jesus as he becomes our greatest gift.