December 7, 2021
We are now in the season of Advent and are waiting for Christmas.
To be perfectly honest with you, waiting is not my strong suit. I remember my first Christmas as the new minister at my first church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was rather impatient and couldn’t wait to get the Christmas decorations and advent wreath set up in the sanctuary. While I couldn’t decorate the entire church building by myself, I did manage to get the advent wreath and candles set up next to the podium in the sanctuary.
The next day one of our licensed Unity teachers – a dear friend – came up to me and asked if she could make a few adjustments to the advent wreath. I said, “Of course, feel free to make some changes.” Well, she completely rearranged it, and then she told me, “Rick, I say this out of love. Why don’t you stick to your day job?” She was right. Her improvements were far better than what I had done in a rush job.
My younger daughter, Therese, is also not good at waiting and showing patience. She asks almost every single day in December, “When is Christmas?” And she also tries to get inside every closet to see if Santa has dropped off anything early.
Advent sometimes reminds me of the wonderful play by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot. The play is usually presented on an almost bare stage that sometimes has one lonely and windswept tree. The two main characters in the play are some Laurel and Hardy like vagabonds. They are waiting for somebody or something that will change everything and make it all better. They call this somebody Godot, and of course, Godot never shows up.
How often are we uncomfortable waiting and thinking that when our Godot shows up, it will finally be different? If only “X” happens, we will feel complete and whole. We will have arrived. When the degree is earned, the lover shows up, the house purchased, the car is in the driveway, our political party is in the White House, and on and on. Often our Godot does show up, and we are still left with that old uncomfortable feeling.
One time at Disneyland, we were in a long line for a ride. While in the line, I started to compare it to life. What if we get to the head of the line and discover that the time we spent in line was, in fact, the ride? What if we realize that our Godot has been inside us all along and that we already have what we so deeply desire?
Christian author Joyce Meyer notes that “patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting.” When I read this, my reaction was: Life is like a metaphysical advent season. Yes, there are the joys of Christmas. But what am I doing right here and now to enjoy what I can enjoy today?
Specifically, in terms of advent, I am asking myself these questions:
- Advent is a time of great music and many free concerts. Am I enjoying them? Am I letting my ears and heart have a musical feast?
- Advent is a time of great Christmas lights and decorations. Am I letting my eyes enjoy these visual feasts?
- Advent is a time of parties and get-togethers. Am I being sane about these gatherings? I don’t have to go to every single one. Sometimes it is in our best and rational interest to say no. Also, we don’t have to be the last ones to leave the party. Still, am I enjoying these social occasions?
- Advent is a time of helping others. Am I being of love and service? There are so many opportunities to do this!
- Advent is also an especially good time to remember the child inside all of us. I believe that you are never too old to give yourself the childhood you always wanted.
I have also enjoyed several musicals, movies, and books that looked at some famous characters’ backstories. For example, I loved seeing the musical Wicked. It is about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch is the main character, and Dorothy is practically a “walk-on” part. For a moment, think about a musical, movie, or book where Advent is the main character and Christmas Day is almost an extra on the stage or in the book. Maybe Advent’s stage name would be Patience?
Patience has another side and another role, which was recently brought home to me in an email sent by a Unity of Roanoke Valley member. The email said: “Be strong enough to walk away from what is not best for you, and be patient enough to wait for the blessings you deserve.”
Many of us are like the two characters in Waiting For Godot. We settle for third or fourth-best when Godot does not quickly show up. We may sell ourselves short. I have often felt that many of my long-run problems started as my “brilliant” short-run solutions. Maybe a great gift for me would be a “box of patience” under the Christmas tree.
I got some interesting news today. Before I graduated from the seminary, there was a job I really wanted after I was ordained as a minister. I was one of the three finalists for the job but was not picked. When I learned about this, I felt very impatient, to say the least. However, I learned today that the organization in question has just eliminated this position and let go of the person who did get the job.
And, as it turned out, it was a much better road for me to move in the direction of being a minister at local churches. I believe that I have grown spiritually more than I would have if my post-seminary career had gone according to my original script. Developing a stronger sense of patience can help us spiritually develop in so many ways.
So here is to Advent and waiting for Christmas. May you have a joyous, productive, and heartwarming Advent season … oh yes, and almost as an afterthought, Merry Christmas!