"Lord, give me patience… NOW!”
Anyone else ever prayed this prayer? For me, it generally spews out while holding a screaming child as another one dumps a glass of juice as dinner is burning and I have to go to the bathroom. We’ve all experienced cravings for some sort of divine gift of patience to be abruptly injected into our lives. It seems we sometimes mistake the Lord for a vending machine that serves up virtue:
"Dear Lord, I’d like, patience, perfect joy, right judgment and some rolos, please. Amen"
We’ve all heard the rebuttal from well-meaning friends regarding our cries for patience: “The Lord doesn’t just give us patience… He gives us opportunities to be patient.” To which I reply, “Um, seriously? I’d rather have patience, thanks.”
Yet here we are at Advent, a season dedicated entirely to the concept of “waiting.” The Church, in her wisdom, understood how important it is for us to learn to wait, and to do so with joyful hope. You see, patience isn’t about being complacent or apathetic. On the contrary, patience is a longing that is united to God’s perfect plan. This is what Advent is all about. Internally we should experience an overwhelming realization that We.Need.A.Savior. Our hearts are meant to swell at this realization, and desire its fulfillment!
Now, this image of waiting in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord manifests itself in different ways in our perception of Christmas. We all remember the agony of childhood as we woke up at 5 am and counted the minutes until Christmas morning. It was painful really. However, let’s put this concept of waiting for Christmas in real perspective. Reality check: let’s imagine the Jewish people; the ones who were promised a Savior over and over again for thousands of years. Their hearts were swelling, their patience was tested, and sometimes they failed miserably in their faithfulness to God’s promise. As Christians who are living over 2000 years after the Incarnation of Jesus, we scarcely think of the utter anguish God’s people experienced prior to His arrival on earth. Why? The doors of Heaven were closed. Imagine approaching your death, and knowing you weren’t going to Paradise… there was no Savior. Consider what would it be like when you aged and your friends and family started to pass away… you knew they wouldn’t be “in a better place.” How often do we take time to contemplate the fact that, “Jesus, like all men, experienced death and his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there” CCC 632. It wasn’t until this moment that anyone, including those who had perished thousands of years before Jesus’ birth, could be in the presence of God in Heaven. What would it be like to live a life before the coming of Christ? I would be starving for the Messiah. All of creation was aching for the coming of Jesus. They had to trust, with patience that sometimes hurt, that God was a Father who kept His promises.
This is what we remember in the season of Advent. We need to crave Jesus. In this time we prepare the stable of our heart. We do so with patience, knowing that the Lord will answer. We also do so with longing, as we pray in the Advent Liturgy, “Jesus come quickly, and do not delay.” During Advent, our hearts should feel like a dam being stretched beyond its limits. We must take time to reflect on our utter yearning for the King’s arrival. When He arrives in our hearts and in our homes this Christmas, He will satisfy, and He will not disappoint.