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We spend a good deal of our lives sleeping. Of the time we're awake, a lot of that is spent waiting! I remember the birth of our first child very well. As the due date passed, (and I could no longer fit my feet into anything other than my hiking boots), each hour felt like an eternity unto itself. I recall thinking that it would be a bad idea to start the laundry at the apartment complex machines because I might have to hurry to the hospital right in the middle of the spin cycle. When our hamper piled up over the next few days, I lugged it over and did the wash.
Short of drinking castor oil, (that actually worked with #7!), I did everything I could think of to hasten the baby's arrival. I moved furniture, deep cleaned, ate spicy foods, prayed, even walked the half mile or so from my apartment to the hospital in my hiking boots hoping to flip some kind of maternal switch and be admitted. Nothing happened. At my last doctor visit, he mentioned the possibility of inducing labor if I "went into the next week." That Saturday morning, 13 days "late," I finally went into labor. At 2 a.m., after 22 hours, our first baby was born.
These days, I'm waiting for different things: to hear from a prospective author, to receive a check in the mail, to be notified that my husband's job transfer has finally been approved, to be told when one of our kids is coming home for Christmas. I'm not much better at waiting than I ever was, unless I know that I know that I know that what I'm hoping for will materialize. Until that point, I keep looking for ways to make -- or help -- things happen.
No matter what or whom you're waiting for, the waiting itself is never easy. But the funny thing about waiting is that it can only occur if, in a certain sense, what you're waiting for has already come. Waiting is possible only when we are expecting something. When I waited for Jana to be born, she was already there, growing inside me. When our family waited for my husband's father to die, it was because so much of him already had. When we've waited to move, or change jobs, or pay bills it's because those opportunities have presented themselves.
This is even more true when we wait for a holiday, or a milestone birthday, or anniversary. We anticipate these special events because we know that they will come, because we are convinced that nothing can keep them from coming. We watch and hope and wait when we know there is something worth watching and hoping and waiting for. The Church does the same with Christmas.
Beginning Dec. 17, we are given the "O" antiphons as the Gospel acclamation verses leading up to Christmas. Over 1,000 years old, these words are the basis for many of the lyrics we sing in Advent hymns like "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." These antiphons, or refrains, were traditionally prayed during Vespers (now Evening Prayer) by clergy and religious. No one knows who composed them, but whoever it was hid a secret message -- an acrostic -- in the text. (Take that, Dan Brown!) If you use the original order of the antiphons (which has now been changed), take the first letter of the first Latin word after each "O," and read them backwards beginning with December 24th, they spell the words ero cras or "I will come tomorrow."
The beautiful thing about our Lord's coming is that it isn't bound to a single date in history or only once in a calendar year. With God every tomorrow becomes a today, and every today promises an even more graced tomorrow. As Shakespeare put it, "The past is prologue." Jesus has come already, yes; but he is always coming, and will come at the end of time. We are waiting because it will happen, it is happening, and it has happened. There is nothing to fear from a God who keeps his promises, and who makes each day a manger ready to receive him.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.