My wife and I got married during the season of Advent. We love this season, with Advent wreaths, hymns like O Come, O Come Emmanuel, adding more and more decorations to our tree to mark each week, and of course, calendars with their chocolate for a little daily treat. (Incidentally, you may have heard that Tiffany and Co has released their own Advent calendar this year, with a different piece of jewelry each day of December, starting at $112,000. Come, Lord Jesus indeed!)
The night before our wedding, my wife surprised me with a little gift. She left the room, and I was so excited, I opened the gift before she came back in. That was not a good decision on my part—it did NOT go over well. I’m lucky we still exchanged vows the next day!
Just a couple of weeks ago, while driving to The Basilica I heard Christmas music on the radio. In that excitement, I made multiple phone calls (hands free) to alert loved ones that we can begin listening to our holiday favorites a full two weeks before Thanksgiving! One of those calls was to my wife, who did not share my excitement! She is a bit better at waiting than I am.
Perhaps I’m drawn to this particular season because it forces me to stretch myself and grow in patience and faith. And perhaps I’m not alone in needing that growth. The Church gives us this season because we all need this grace of waiting, as difficult as it can be at times. Some of this waiting is good—like children waiting for Santa to come or families waiting to see loved ones during the holidays.
For others, the waiting is so difficult: for a loved one to come home from being deployed abroad, for a medical test result to come back or an upcoming surgery. Millions wait at borders and in camps for the chance at a better life for their families and the list goes on.
December 8 is the traditional date on the Church’s calendar to celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her being freed from sin so that she could conceive and bear the Christ child, our Savior and Redeemer. The Gospel for the Immaculate Conception tells the dramatic story of Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel and being told she would conceive and bear her son, Jesus. After the angel departs, Mary was left to wait. No doubt she had lots to ponder! And yet, in her waiting, she did not stay alone. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, to wait and be together.
Perhaps that is where the grace we need to wait comes from, in family and community. That’s why we gather these weeks for Mass, holy days, vespers, Taizé prayer, etc. All so we can receive the grace to wait, and prepare our hearts again, for the coming Christmas feast. Together, may we all know the grace of holy waiting in this holy season.