Today is the first day of the season of Advent, the season of waiting, anticipating, preparing, and longing.
As a child, the main understanding I had of advent was the advent calendar, where we opened one door each day to get a chocolate. It was an exciting and delicious tradition, even if it provided a pretty rudimentary understanding of the meaning and depth that advent offered. Let’s be honest, the end game was presents: how long must I wait?
As an adult, I have grown to appreciate the rhythms of the church calendar, and the richness that can be found by leaning into them. Advent is about more than just a chocolate calendar, or a nativity scene, or waiting for presents.
The question was posed in Jazz Matins this morning (sort of like regular church but better / with jazz): What are you waiting for? What are you anticipating? What are you longing for?
What am I longing for? That is an especially uncomfortable question for church, where I’m surrounded by couples and families with children, while I walk in and out alone.
This Christmas will be my seventh Single Christmas, post-divorce. It’s not an easy time of year to be alone, to be the one unattached person at all the Christmas dinners, to have to endure queries from family members about my relationship status. Of course, I’m not alone in the truest sense of the word: I have family, friends, a roommate, a fish (who may or may not be nearing the end of his aquatic life). But I am alone, in the Hallmark Christmas Romance movie sense, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. Although I think we can all agree those movies set some pretty unrealistic expectations with their cheesy characters, predictable plot twists and too-good-to-ever-be-true scripts. But I digress…
The sense of waiting and longing for companionship is not new to me, but this year it feels a little different. A little heavier, if I’m being honest. The longer I wait, the more familiar it feels, and the familiarity is frightening.
The language of waiting suits me well. But the question grows increasingly urgent: how long must I wait?
In the first week of advent, we light the candle of hope. With advent, there is waiting, but also confident assurance. This is tradition, this is predictable, there’s a script for this. We know Christmas is coming and that it will surely arrive. We will light the next candle, and the next one, and the next, until it arrives.
Similarly, Hallmark movies are comforting because we know what the ending will be. We know they’ll end up together in spite of the odds. We know all the hopes are fulfilled. There’s a reason they keep making these movies: warm and fuzzy, predictably happy endings sell.
As for my love life, I keep lighting the candle of hope. But each time the flame seems to struggle more to shine amidst the darkness. How long must I wait?
Without a script, I have no way of knowing whether there will be any significant characters entering my story anytime soon… cheesy and predictable or otherwise.
Even so, my candle flickers on, and I offer up my heart’s question: How long must I wait?
Is there anything you’re waiting for, anticipating, longing for in this season?