Amazon is ruining Christmas. And by that, I mean, it is ruining our ability to wait. The other day, I ordered something that wasn’t from Jeff Bezos’s empire and I had to wait a few extra days to get it. The package actually got lost and I ended up on the phone with UPS defending the aforementioned online shopping executive. Yikes. Anyway, my customer service drama aside, when I was complaining to my cell about my predicament, they told me I had lost the ability to wait and that I was losing the ability to be patient. They are right.
My patience is corroded, it seems like. I don’t know if it’s late capitalism’s instant access that has done it, or maybe I’m just not sleeping enough, but it is notable. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
We need to learn to wait. We need to learn to endure. That’s the point of Advent. If we can’t wait, Christmas just won’t be as sweet. In the United States, Christmas basically starts on Nov. 1. Once Halloween displays are down, Lowe’s puts up its Christmas display and the whole hardware store becomes a winter wonderland. Even before the first snowflake falls (and as the weather gets eerily unseasonably warmer), we are singing Christmas carols.
And the sad thing is, once Dec. 26 hits, all of the wrapping paper and tinsel is gone, virtually. I like to leave the tree up at least until Epiphany, but we are so sick of gingerbread and eggnog by the time Christmas hits. All of the glogg is drank and we’re hung over. The panettone is stale and the stollen is all dried up.
We have ruined Christmas because we have forgotten how to wait. Not just because we are impatient, but we are so marketed to that the anticipation of the holiday is gone too. We don’t even care and can’t wait until it’s over.
But Advent is so short you can miss it. The first candle is already lit and the first Sunday has passed. Christmas Eve is in eighteen days. If you don’t savor the opportunity to wait, you’ll miss it altogether.
“What am I missing?” you might ask, “The songs are old and the cookies are too sweet.” Christmas is overdone and underdone at the same time. The worst parts of it are sold to us, and the best parts of it aren’t even spoken. Christians are arguing over Starbucks cups as they attempt to fortify their quickly diminished subcultural territory. We forget the incarnation. We forget Jesus is promised for the troubled world. We take for granted that Jesus is here. Some Christians might not even see the point of waiting, since Jesus has already arrived.
But I was struck when I observed our little ones at our Sunday meeting last week. They were typically very disruptive and loud as they awaited their special Advent song. But they were excited. I appreciate their excitement because it reminds me how to anticipate. Kids get the excitement, we should learn that from them. We are always telling them to wait and be patient. And for what? Many adults can’t even answer. They are just so bored, oppressed, and exhausted, they just can’t wait for the damn season to be over. Ugh. Miserable. I hope the kids teach us something.
Can we learn to anticipate the incarnation enough to forestall our satisfaction? Can we learn to yearn? And can we learn to endure? “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, will find it hard to sleep tonight…” I hope we do too.
I hope we can develop the ability to wait and also the ability to discern what is truly worth waiting for. Learning to persevere alone saves us. If we can endure discomfort, pain, or dissatisfaction long enough, the sweetness and joy of that mysterious baby savior will be all the better.
All it takes it time. Hold on to your faith this season. Keeping the faith is all you need to do. A little bit is enough to move a mountain, Jesus says. Hold on to your little light, it makes a big difference in the world of darkness. Don’t worry about conquest or revolution. You don’t need to be strong to be saved. You just have to wait.
Followers of Jesus are working on the art of waiting. Don’t let your anxiety overcome you. Don’t let our conditioned lack of patience dominate you. Don’t let all the tinsel, and holiday movies, and displays ruin the holiday.
The Incarnation can’t be Amazon Primed. Sometimes it requires patience. And we know that because we know our life is full of sorrow and trouble that can’t just be wished away. We have to get through it. The world is full of trouble. But we are promised a savior. Wait for the Savior. Wait during Advent. Don’t stuff yourself silly every night. Save room for after Christmas Day. There’s more celebration to be had. Maybe don’t open a gift. Or proof Kugelhopf dough again.
And if you fail to wait, that’s OK, the baby savior still comes.