We are only a couple of short days away from Advent. Hard to imagine that Advent is not here yet when we have had the commercial carnival known as Christmas up to full mach 2 having been launched right after Halloween. But alas we will begin on Sunday the process of preparing and waiting or a season we coincidentally call Christmas as well. That four week preparation is the season of Advent. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, preaching on the First Sunday of Advent in 1928 said “Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has time to ripen.” I wonder what he would think today in a world gone mad with instant gratification. We live in a time where it is quite possible that if you had to wait more than five second for this page to appear you are probably not reading this blog! It’s kinda nuts!
I was thinking about what I call “Lively Leanne’s Life’s Lessons.” Leanne is a great niece of mine in Newfoundland. She is very bright and she loves to laugh and have fun. I have quoted Leanne before. When I was to return to Ontario from a trip to Whiteway a couple of Christmases ago she asked me why I was leaving. I told her that I had to get back to work. Lively Leanne looked at me with furrowed brow and said, “Uncle Kevy….you don’t wuuuurrk. All you do is go to church!” Well put. By now you are asking what all this has to do with Advent. I’m getting to it. This summer I was the beneficiary of two or three more of these “Lively Leanne’s Life’s Lessons. (LLLL)” This one in particular is very relevant to Advent.
On a couple of separate occasions when Leanne was with me and Aunt Catherinanne, she made impassioned pleas for things that she felt very strongly about. It was clear that there was a lot of hope in her heart that what she longed for would be delivered. These were big things to her, such as McDonalds for lunch, a second trip to Signal Hill on the same day, and the need to have a Frosty from Wendy’s for dessert after supper at KFC. All of these great desires came in one day. Her delivery was impeccable. She is a beautiful little girl and with her most loving look would ask, “Uncle Kevy, can we go back up to Single Hill after the movie?” But that was not the best part. Before I could answer her question it was followed by a plea from little Leanne. “Don’t say no! Say we’ll see!”I obliged and in each instance said, “We’ll see.” I have thought about that many times since that day. It is now a part of LLLL. Leanne was contented to wait for an answer. She was prepared to embrace expectation. She would embrace even the possibility of her hopes and aspirations coming to fruition. She did not NEED a yes. She only needed the door to be left open and then I could see in her little face in the impending waiting period, anticipation and expectation and joy. She seemed to relish the waiting for an answer. The “we’ll see” period is akin to Advent. It is our liturgical “we’ll see.” Instead of jumping headfirst into Christmas we engage on a wait and see what it might be. Leanne waited patiently – especially for a seven year old. And when the “we’ll see” became a yes she was so, excited, so exuberant and so thrilled. She enjoyed the wait but she was absolutely Gob-smacked at the fulfillment of her desires. Because Uncle Kevin and Aunt Catherinanne are pushovers and love to do what they can when they can with little people that they do not see often, I never got to experience what the disappointment might have been if at the end of the “we’ll see” period if her dreams had not come true. So it is with God and us. God has no interest in letting us down. God is present with us in the long moments of “we’ll see” and God is with us to bring goodness to full fruition. Leanne understands the value of waiting and she loves the excitement of living with the possibility of what might be. We could all use a good dose of that instead of wanting to know at every moment what will happen next. We could all live with a little dose of not needing all gratification immediately.
Almost as profound as Lively Leanne is Bonheoffer….I said almost. In that same sermon from 1928 that I referenced earlier he shared this. "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!" I know a lot of people who just don’t get that concept. But alas my little theologian Leanne – she gets it!
And besides all that – she’s my buddy!