We’re often instructed that Advent is the season of waiting. Waiting for the Christ child. Waiting for the Kingdom of God.
I realized the other day that this Advent I didn’t feel at all like I was waiting for anything. Not spiritually, despite the Advent readings in my book of Common Prayer. Not even in that basic way of the child exclaiming, “I can’t wait for Christmas!” which is usually about expectations of presents and a week off school.
Instead I was rushing about, wishing for more time. Maybe a week or two extra, so I could:
- Actually pull out my Christmas list and see whom I have to buy for.
- Write a coherent Christmas letter and print it and sign it and stuff it in labeled envelopes before Christmas Eve.
- Bake at least Les’s favorite cookies.
- Tackle the ever-expanding to-do list.
- Spend an evening driving around looking at Christmas lights.
- Breathe deeply.
Wishing doesn’t make it so.
Therefore the actual strategy—rushing.
I rush to finish an item or two on the list. Les steps in and takes several tasks off my hands. I put things on my to-do list that I’ve already done simply so I can cross them off and feel some sense of accomplishment. And I rush on to the next.
And I find myself wishing for the chance to wait.
Which is funny, because I hate to wait.
Several weeks ago while reading in Chris Seay’s book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor, I felt challenged to do something. But, no, thank you, I was not going to fast. (Please don’t comment to tell me all the benefits of fasting. I know them. I get it. I still wasn’t doing it. Maybe because I’ve gotten sick every time I have fasted. Maybe because I didn’t want to sacrifice that much. Maybe because I’m not very spiritual. I don’t know. You feel free to decide. Just don’t tell me.)
I remembered hearing Michelle Kime, one of the founders of fair-trade fashion retailer Imagine Goods (Great stuff; check it out! Go ahead; I’ll be right here when you get back.), talk about where to start making a difference. “Start with things that are luxuries, not necessities, like coffee, chocolate and tea.”
Many of us would argue that those things are, in fact, necessities, at least if we are going to function with any modicum of pleasantness and brain function. But in terms of nutrition, they aren’t necessities.
I drink a lot of iced tea, probably close to a gallon a day. I brew it at home, both “hi-test” (caffeinated) and decaf, using the jumbo family bags. I work at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade store that sells fair-trade tea (and coffee and chocolate, if you want it). I felt God was telling me I could at least identify with the poor by using fair-trade caffeinated tea that supports small-scale farmers. (They don’t have decaf in a flavor I like.)
But how much would that cost me?! I protested. Ultimately, I obeyed God. It’s always a good idea to do that, maybe without arguing with God first.
Then the other issue arose, the one that reminded me this morning of how much I hate waiting.
Instead of two large tea bags with a simple label to rip off the string, I now have to use six small tea bags. Six bags each packed individually in its own paper wrapper plus with a label on the string! Rip. Pull out of bag. Yank label off string. Throw in pan. Repeat. SIX times! Ugh.
After the water boils, I then have to let the tea steep for five minutes. This was a decision I made so I could use fewer tea bags and thus save some money since I was purchasing more expensive fair-trade tea.
Really, it’s not that much extra time, but I found myself internally whining.
Wait. Wait. Wait. Rush. Hurry. Rush.
I hate to wait. But I don’t want to be that rushing, whirling dervish that has no time to stop, to breathe deeply, to stare at the Christmas tree, to take a ride to meander neighborhoods in search of Christmas lights.
I read this in Seay’s book this morning:
“I am confident that when our ears are open to hear God speak, God speaks.”
Opening my ears to God involves waiting to hear. It’s always a challenge. But maybe it’s one this Advent season can teach me.