Christmas is the season of Advent, which means, literally, “to wait.”
But let’s pause here, shall we? You see, waiting is not one of my spiritual gifts. And truth be told, I wish it were easier to wait.
To wait implies that we are invited to pay attention, (one would assume), to something. Something specific. Let’s just say that modern life has rewired our expectations.
True, waiting is part of life. However, we’d like to know the point. As if waiting is a test with unambiguous and accurate answers.
We are like four-year-old children five minutes out of the driveway, on any family trip, “Are we there yet?”
There is a delightful story about a man who takes his son to movie matinees. That is not unusual. Except this: the boy, his son, is deaf.
The man is accustomed to questioning. “Why do you do this to your son, if he cannot hear the movie?” Or, “If your son can’t hear, what value is there?”
The Father smiles and says, “You are right. He cannot hear. But I wonder. In the movie we watched last weekend. What color were the walls in the house? How many windows where there in the main house? What color was the heroine’s hair? And her eyes?”
The Father continues, “I guess the value depends upon what we are paying attention to.”
I love this story. Could it be, that (just like the hearing-impaired boy), the value of waiting, depends upon the permission and freedom to simply, be present?
To embrace the gift of paying attention.
We assume that to wait means to fill time or space. And sadly, this is what derails us. (Wait is assuredly a word we’re not fond of. I read that the average person will spend 5 years of his or her life waiting in line, 2 years playing phone tag, and six months sitting at red lights, and some open-ended number of years in a customer service phone call queue. That’s at least over 7 and half years of waiting, at best, doing “nothing”, or at worst maxing out our blood pressure. And it doesn’t help that we blithely text or scroll search while we wait.)
So. Here’s the deal: Part of the inability to wait (to see or savor) is that we live overwhelmed (both external and internal—yes, so many wrestling with a kind of melancholy or despair), and that becomes our narrative. In other words, that’s all we see. We see only the despair. And we can’t see the gift. We miss the invitation to the sacred present.
Okay, back to Advent season. I’m grateful for John O’Donohue’s reminder, “At Christmas, time deepens. The Celtic imagination knew that time is eternity in disguise. They embraced the day as a sacred space. Christmas reminds us to glory in the simplicity and wonder of one day; it unveils the extraordinary that our hurried lives conceal and neglect. We have been given such immense possibilities. We desperately need to make clearances in our entangled lives to let our souls breathe. We must take care of ourselves and especially of our suffering brothers and sisters.”
Okay. What if the waiting of Advent, is the story of a God who pitches a tent among us, even as we live in the midst of a culture grown weary from too much? Too much speed, too much fear and too much strife?
What if waiting now provides space for a reset. For replenishment. For spiritual hydration.
Bottom line… When I recognize (value) that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy, I can make room. I can welcome. I can see (pay attention). And I can share the gift.
The good news? Advent waiting is grounded in hope. The affirmation that God’s light and love always shines in every kind of darkness that we might encounter (be it illness, grief, injustice, cares about work or relationships, or spiritual darkness). Which means, we can wait, with hope, together. Yes, remembering that no one of us is on this journey alone.
So, let’s go back to remembering what we value. Remembering those things and people, for which we are grateful. Actually, I’m a big believer in ritual (or liturgy). But as a choice, not a compulsion (or addiction). Today… making space to see that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy. In other words, the permission to let moments of grace heal us, carry us, sustain us, inviting us to a bigger world. And in that bigger world, grace is always alive and well.
Sometimes, in my daily writing (like today), I stop what I’m doing (having read a song, poem, prayer or letter, and let the tears of gratitude flow. Because of the grounding affirmation of what we value. And today, I needed Pooh and Piglet…
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”
Thank you A.A. Milne.
So. During this Advent season, I thank you, my friends, and community, who help create places for healing and grace. Let us be on this journey together. Be gentle with yourself. And savor your days.
Quote for your week…
The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see,
you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord. Henri Nouwen
Today’s Photo Credit: “Good morning, Terry–thanks once more for bringing so much inspiration and hope and love into my morning devotions. This is a picture from my morning walk in Houston… God painting yet another glorious landscape to welcome the new day. Blessings to you for all you are and all you do! All the best, and a blessed Christmas season to you and yours!” Vicki Smith Bigham… Thank you Vicki… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you, Terry. This hit my heart: “It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.” Why do we always need to be reminded huh? Aloha, Bill
–Blue, white, multicolored, no shirt at all, just keep sharing the love and grace. Richard Rohr’s blog today talks about the authoritative church getting in the way of the Gospel. So you go, my friend. What a sad story about inappropriate use of authority. That Lutheran from Minnesota. Yours Truly, Flip
–Thank you Terry. I can’t remember how many years I have been reading your blogs. I met you at an event in Lynwood, WA many years ago and have been a reader since then. I have bought several of your books over the years and am currently enjoying Stand Still. When covid shut everything down, five friends from church and I started a “Morning Glories” email group and each of us sends an email every morning with a scripture and what we have going that day. We pray for each other and we all subscribe to SM. We quite often refer to something you have said and we are so blessed by reading your messages. Thank you for all you do for our Lord. Blessings. Janell
–I feel grateful to you Terry Hershey for the myriad of your words of wisdom and healing. Merci. Karen
–Hi Terry, Thank you for your thoughtful messages. Your voice is an inspirational bright spot for the day. Given our messed up world, we sometimes need these reminders to look out at the beauty of our natural world and to look for and expect the goodness of people. Toni
POEMS AND PRAYERS
After hurrying through days
of busy occasions dutifully noted
on calendars with fast-turning pages,
I hear whispers around me,
talk of how I’m slowing down
as if something’s wrong with that
and I should be sorry to be my age,
mournful about the changes.
But for now I have to say
how welcome the changes are,
that it’s good sometimes
to live within a smaller compass,
no longer in charge of anything
more than daily necessities,
that I am learning
to be worthy of time
and robust with memory
in a sanctuary of silence
where the loves of my long life
walk the shadows with me
where we embrace,
where we sing
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day,
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!’
Henri J.M. Nouwen