I’ve always loved December. Living in Australia, it’s summer, the end of the school year so we always had our long summer break over December/January. It’s also my birthday month and … it’s Christmas.
I still recall those days approaching Christmas when the presents used to begin to pile up under the tree. Most of them were for dad, he’s a doctor and all his patients bought him presents. Every year. But my sister and two brothers were more excited by what Santa would put in the pillow slips that sat at the end of our beds.
We’d struggle to sleep we were that excited. But mom always warned us that Santa wouldn’t arrive until we were fast asleep.
And then when we woke, far too early for mom and dad, we’d have to wait until they arose before we could open all the goodies in those magical pillowslips.
We had to wait.
The anticipation. The excitement … was electric.
The season of Advent has commenced. Advent simply means: “coming” or “arrival” – of Jesus.
But as most of us know Jesus took a long time to arrive. Four hundred years in fact. That’s how long the Israelites had to wait.
The four-week season of Advent reflects a time of waiting. We don’t like to wait, do we? Especially if it’s for something important or critical, a test result, an answer to prayer, our pre-believing spouse to meet Jesus, and so on.
“While God rarely comes at our appointed time, he comes at the right time.” (Louis Giglio)
A Different Kind of Waiting
Many of you know how I’ve spent a lot of this year caring for Mum and Dad. Dad moved into palliative care two Thursdays ago. He made that decision which was a great relief for us. At the time of writing, Dad is still with us. Over the past two weeks I’ve learnt a lot about waiting and the dying process.
Immediately after the Doctor advised me that Dad had expressed his wish to move into palliative care, I sat with Dad. I took his hand as I do each day, and he told me how he’d had a premonition a few days ago about dying. Interestingly, I said to him that a few days ago the Lord had given me this wonderful picture of many witnesses taking a hold of Dad’s frail body and carrying him to the finish line. Standing before the finish line was Jesus, ready to receive Dad and take him onto the next adventure. You see Dad isn’t really a man of faith, he has a notion of God but not Jesus.
During these ten days or so of Dad’s body gradually slowing down and he increasingly unable to communicate, the Lord has shown me this beautiful picture of how much He loves Dad. It’s glorious and simply irresistible. Every time I look at Dad I weep because of how beautiful he is. It's like God has let me see Dad through His eyes. His love for each one of His children is breathtaking and incredibly reassuring for those of us who wait for our loved one to pass.
Before Dad stopped communicating, we chatted about him seeing his Mum and Dad again, feasting on the best meal he’s ever eaten. And he smiled so contentedly. I believe I’ll see Dad again one day.
How do we Wait?
December is often a frantic month. Besides finishing end of year projects there is the added weight of present buying, parties to attend, gatherings with family and friends. All around us there are reminders of what is coming: the lights, the decorations, the music, the extra crowded malls and our own stress levels.
For many, December is a month full of sadness for a variety of reasons and simply getting any time to reflect only brings back sad or negative memories. And so we enjoy the busy because it keeps us from reflecting on those memories.
But what is the gift we are expecting? Or more precisely, who is the gift? Who is arriving?
A little challenge
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
In amongst the busyness of December may I encourage us all to find some time to sit in the Lord’s presence. And be still. Shut the door both physically but also to your inner sanctuary. “The voice of God is very gentle; we can’t hear it if we let other voices compete.” (Robyn Wrigley-Carr)
It's just you and God. Picture God, the lover of your soul, gazing at you with immense love, such love that only He can give.
And breathe it in. You don’t need to talk, say anything, perhaps invite Jesus in by whispering His name or anything else that takes your fancy. And if you start thinking about all the things you should be doing, just say ‘Jesus’ again to go back to Him and His love.
It might last two minutes, maybe five or ten. You might experience nothing. May I encourage you to do it again a few times and before long you’ll be longing to get away and sit with Jesus regularly.
We wait actively. By being present in the moment. Sitting with Jesus helps us to discover both more of Him but how to be present.
Wishing all of my SUMite friends a joyful Advent season full of Jesus wonder and anticipation of His constant presence in our lives.
PS. My family (especially Mum) are all doing okay about Dad. We’re sad but we’ve been preparing for this season for a while now. And thank you for the love (and prayers) you’ve shown me over the past year. It’s been a such blessing for me. And I've felt everyone of those prayers.