The wintery cold has been sinking lower and lower on the weatherman’s map each night. Finally, the chill of that blue boundary line reaches down to embrace even Florida. The wind feels icy now, though the weatherman says that the still-ripening oranges on our backyard tree are safe.
For me, winter arrives just as this season of waiting begins to feel less than joyful. Not quite two weeks in, waiting feels more like real waiting, less like the thrilling performance of waiting I experience during Advent’s first week. In other words, it feels difficult. Wearying.
Even the words I write come less easily. Like carving them, slowly, out of ice.
The truth is, we spend so much of our lives waiting. For some of us, Advent seems to last for years, rather than days. We cry “Come, Lord, come!” And we keep on crying, caught somewhere in the perpetual coming but not yet here. Always Advent, never Christmas. Or, as Lewis wrote so memorably in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
As a writer (well, honestly, as a human being!) it is tempting to set up permanent camp in the land of answers. Somehow, Advent gives me permission to ask questions without worrying whether or not I also have the answers. During Advent, I remember that it is good to voice our most pressing questions aloud and then sit in the quietness that follows.
“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, ‘When will you comfort me?’ … How long must your servant wait?”
(Psalm 119: 81, 84).
Perhaps because Advent prompts me to reflect on the heavy realities of darkness, silence, and waiting, it also pushes me past my usual zone of comfortable optimism, my I’m-okay-you’re-okay-we’re-all-okay assumption. Truthfully, many of us are not okay.
Some of us are hurting right now, and some of us are not, but during Advent, we join together to sing an ancient refrain. One that is so powerful, so universal, it echoes backwards and forwards in time, from the cross to David and back to us today: “But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22: 19).