So here we are, well into the Advent season -- a season barely recognized by…
A lesson in waiting this Christmas season
This year, at my special request, we splurged on the Christmas cards. The kids mostly tolerated a Thanksgiving week photo shoot, and I uploaded select results immediately to a popular online design site. Adorable cards ordered: check. Adorable cards manufactured: check. Adorable cards shipped: check. And it wasn’t even December yet. Things were happening in an unusually timely and organized fashion, and I was feeling good about it.
We also ordered and received special prayer cards to tuck into each envelope. They’re beautiful. And they look beautiful even while sitting atop our kitchen table, where they have grown roots waiting for the actual cards to arrive.
As I write this on Dec. 14, my helpful package tracking information informs me that my beloved, adorable photo Christmas cards should be here by Dec. 4. Further digging informs me that they are spending their Advent waiting patiently at a “Shipping Partner Facility” in middle Indiana. After speaking to a variety of customer service representatives, it seems that there they will sit until someone has a chance to scan them, thereby releasing them from postal service purgatory. Or something like that.
It’s at times like these when I take solace in the fact that the Christmas season only begins on Dec. 25. I have all the way until mid-January — maybe even Feb. 2 if I’m going old school — to get these cards out at a time still remotely connected to the birth of our Savior. And really, would anyone actually turn up his or her nose at an adorable Easter-Christmas card? I think not.
Maybe I’m obsessing, but those darned stalled-out Christmas cards seem to serve as an analogy for so much in this final month of the world’s longest year. The majority of the past 12 months may as well have been docked at the Shipping Partner Facility. We seem to be on permanent stand-by, waiting to travel, to see loved ones, to have a wedding or funeral, to date normally, to receive a vaccine, to return to some semblance of our former existence. We have mastered circling the skies in a “holding pattern,” taking things day by day, because to look any further ahead is to be crushed under the weight of our own lurking despondency.
Thankfully, this time does not have to be in vain. Waiting — whether for Jesus’ birth, an effective and safe vaccine, or the arrival of one’s mail — provides the opportunity to grow in virtue. It affords us the time to reflect upon and practice charity, faith, hope and fortitude. It allows us to put things in perspective, and to remember that the Christian life is all about waiting and preparation, if we are doing it correctly. Somehow, strangely, advancing in the life of faith seems to be able to be summed up in the waiting of delayed Christmas cards in a time of pandemic.
Unfortunately, we are human. We are impatient, self-centered and quick-tempered. And it doesn’t help that our Amazon Prime and instant-streaming culture has made us averse to delay of any kind. It takes commitment, dedication and real effort to stay focused on what really matters. And what really matters is not the timely arrival of Christmas cards, no matter how cute they might be or how much we invested in them. It isn’t even breaking out of our pandemic-induced holding patterns to return to our usual ways of living.
What really matters is how we do our waiting. So that at some point — we do not, after all, know the day nor the hour — we might be able to achieve our real goal, which is eternal life with the Creator who loves us and sustains us today, tomorrow and always.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.