From the Rev: Waiting for Christmas
We are currently in the season of the year, known to Christians as Advent. Advent precedes Christmas and in earlier years it was celebrated as the 40 days before Christmas. Now, the season is typically observed beginning the four Sundays before Christmas. But the meaning of Advent has remained the same throughout the years – it is a time of preparation for the coming of the King. Perhaps, the theme phrase of the season can best be summed in the words of John the Baptist as he echoes the ancient prophet Isaiah,
I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ (Mark 1:2-3)
The season speaks to ancient times when heralds would travel in advance of the king – employing the people to begin the work of rebuilding the roads and ensuring the safe passage of the king. The season also speaks to a time of waiting – the arrival of the king in those days was never happened at a guaranteed or known time. Travel was slower and many things could delay a royal procession or caravan.
For the professional athletes that I work with, this season of Advent, with its themes of waiting and arrival has special meaning. There is a waiting for news contracts, news of being drafted by a team, a long-awaited wedding ceremony, or even looking ahead to the preseason. There are also ‘arrivals’ – perhaps a trip home to be with loved ones during the holidays, a training stint with a foreign club, or maybe a newborn child coming.
Of course, there are other ways in which the themes of the Advent season plays out, but all of these are a shadow of the one true ‘waiting,’ the waiting that anticipates that arrival of the King. Not everyone knows or understands this, and fewer truly can celebrate it and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it – the richness of Advent is often lost upon many people.
The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
To be honest, this is the challenge – not necessarily just to pro athletes, but perhaps to all who live in the Western world and in countries of affluence. There is little that troubles our souls and even the things that can trouble our soul (like an illness or disease) we often attempt to control or spend a lot of resources in order to minimize the effects. In modern times, we don’t like waiting – a slow computer, a long queue or line for shopping – these things annoy and frustrate us and we lose sight of what is important.
So how do we wait well? Waiting well is linked to preparation – in waiting for a child to be born there is a room to be prepared, clothes and other supplies to collect, things to be learned. In waiting for a spot in the starting lineup – the reserve player has skills to refine and fitness to gain as well as education about the game. In the other spaces where we find ourselves waiting, we will do well to fill the waiting times and spaces with preparation – a long line at the grocery store can become a time to ready a heart for time spent with family, a wait for a doctor’s diagnosis on the biopsy can become a space to pray and ready one’s heart for whatever the determination.
During this Advent season, no matter where you find yourself, may you be one who is waiting well for Christmas.
Rev. Brad Kenney