I’ve often heard Advent described as a time of preparation and waiting, but my friend Barb Kollenkark recently described it as a period of longing.
I suppose that makes sense. We are, after all, waiting for the coming of a child, and I’m sure parents-to-be would confirm that those nine months contain a great deal of longing.
A woman who is pregnant is “expecting.” During Advent we expect the birth of Christ in our hearts. That’s a strong word, with a lot of faith and an element of demand to it. We’re not wishing, we’re expecting.
I so often consider the object of my desire to be a conclusion: the completion of a project, the settling of a decision, the ending of an uncomfortable emotion. But in that delivery room, all parents are hoping for a beginning, not an ending.
Life is a continuing unfolding, and that’s what parents want for their children. Not a straight path, not without difficulties, probably messy, but at every moment the potential for growth.
And so with us and Christ. The coming we are longing for is not a consummation, though we often get ourselves into trouble in big and small ways by searching for fulfillment in everything from alcoholism to the salvation that might arrive in the next email or Facebook post. Not that I’d know anything about that.
What arrives on Christmas, what we’re waiting for, is not an end to yearning but a deepening of it. We are finite beings with an infinite capacity for love, multiple teachers have said, and on Christmas we will receive at least two things, regardless of what is under the tree: a historical example of someone who will show us what our hearts are capable of and that ability itself, which is to live in the evolutionary moment we’re in, to live into our longing, into our true selves in God.
That’s something worth expecting.