We set up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and had to wait until now to decorate it.
It took over six weeks of doctor appointments that ended in an unexpected five-day hospital stay to finally get a diagnosis and treatment for our son’s back pain.
My agent started pitching a book idea I had in January, and I just got a book deal for it.
I’m not good at it.
And yet it’s a part of life.
It seems like so many things I’ve been waiting for for weeks, even months have come together in the past few days, and it feels so fitting, like God is really trying to tell me something, because Advent (this season leading up to Christmas) is a season of waiting–waiting for the birth of Jesus.
Which has always seemed a little strange to me, because Jesus came to earth, lived like a human, so He could fully relate to you and me, was executed on the cross to free us from our sins, and rose from the dead. This all went down over 2,000 years ago, so we don’t really have to wait for it. Do we?
Aha, but it turns out, this is where the good stuff happens.
In the waiting.
I know I know. I don’t like to wait. Like zero percent like it. But I’m learning there can be purpose in the waiting. It can help us more fully experience joy.
Waiting Dials Up Our Excitement
This year I got all the joy and excitement of selecting our Christmas tree and bringing it into the house in November–the scent of pine, the ushering in of the season, that happy, expectant feeling in my heart. Then the tree sat in the corner without a single ornament. I kept sneaking peeks at it thinking, soon, soon we’ll be able to decorate you. But I had to wait. We have a lot of reconstruction going on in our home due to a pipe leak in June (yes, June!) and the tree couldn’t be decorated until some wall patching and painting was complete. Then the other night I sang along to Christmas music and ate minty candy canes with my husband and son while pulling out memories in the form of ornaments and hanging them on pine branches. It was beautiful and fulfilling and so worth the wait. My excitement and joy were amplified, because I’d been waiting and anticipating, and at long last we were able to trim the tree.
Sometimes We Have to Wait for Things to Move Forward
All the appointments, MRIs, X-rays, physical therapy, and prescriptions for our son, led us to a doctor who discovered what looked like the source of our boy’s pain. This doc’s expertise was critical to the next step of being referred to a specialist who got us admitted to the hospital when we didn’t have a clue that’s what we needed. Once in the hospital the best care team of professionals confirmed his diagnosis, tended to our boy, and set him on a path to healing. The journey got us to the right place. Each step of the way mattered, helped doctors rule something out, got us closer to a treatment plan. And each new answer gave us a burst of joy--it's treatable, the biopsy was successful, he's on the right meds--joy, joy, joy. Through the waiting God showed us He is always with us, always guiding us, that He cares so deeply about every detail and step in our lives. It felt like waiting to us, but God used that time to make things happen, to put things in place, to line up the right doctors at the right time so our son could be healed.
Waiting Makes Us More Appreciative
The book deal? Well, that’s just super fun. But by waiting almost a year for it I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has put this book in the publisher’s hands where He wants it published. I’ve had time to work on this book, pray over this book, and pray for the future readers of the book, that the words will increase their understanding of God’s love for them. The waiting has reminded me of God’s faithfulness, perfect timing, and provision. I feel so grateful for this new opportunity, and I’m not sure if I would be as appreciative, as full of joy, if it had come quickly.
And that’s why each Advent, we spend four weeks waiting for Christmas.
Not because we’re pretending we don’t know Jesus was already born, but to prepare our hearts for how beautiful the miracle of Christmas is. To marinate in the fact that Jesus chose to come down from heaven to show us His goodness, heal our broken hearts, bodies, and souls, teach us what love is, and give Himself for us. That He chose to come as a poor boy, to an unknown family, to a teen mom and be born in a barn full of smelly cows and goats, to completely humble Himself, so we could see that things and status and fancy homes or clothes aren’t what bring us joy–love is.
We decorate and bake and send cards and buy gifts and have parties. But we do it all in anticipation. To build on the excitement. To remember how beautiful it is to hope for something, so we’ll appreciate it even more. We read what the prophets had to say about Jesus arriving on earth to better understand what a planner God is. That He’d always intended for Jesus to be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), live in Egypt (Hosea 11:1), and be a branch on Jesse’s family tree (Isaiah 11:1). That sometimes all that planning takes time. To remind our hearts and souls that what happened that first Christmas changed everything. That today in our busy lives with texts to respond to and kids to care for and dishes to wash that Jesus’ love and peace still reigns.
“Don’t be afraid!” the angel said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
This great joy is for you and me.
Some days we have to wait for it. Do our part. Let God do His. Take the next step. Make the next call. Pray. Read our Bibles. Move two squares forward and one square back. Pray some more. Wait some more. But we do it hopefully. Expectantly. And in the waiting we can hold onto hope, get excited for a beautiful outcome, cling to Jesus and His love and grace. So when we get there it’s even sweeter than if we hadn’t waited, we can better feel and experience joy.
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Laura L. Smith