My nephew is almost three, which means he is an avid fan of Daniel Tiger. For those of you who have children, you are most likely already singing the songs. If you do not have children, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a continuation of the childhood classic, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In the span of fifteen minutes, Daniel or one of his friends has a problem and the solution arrives in the form of a short but memorable song. I still sing them to my children, who are much too old for PBS cartoons, or so they say. But I find myself reminding them to “try a new food ’cause it might taste good,” or “stop and listen to stay safe.” They smile and roll their eyes, but they remember. But the song I sing the most, to myself and my children, is “It’s really, really, really hard to wait.”
Waiting is hard, and I love this little ditty because it acknowledges that fact. How often I want to reply to my children’s whining with, “Be patient!” But most of the time, my directive engenders impatience. My advice brings up resentment and more frustration. Acknowledging the difficulty of waiting helps us endure the waiting.
Our current economy and society eliminate waiting for most things. We click a button on a website and the product arrives in a few days, if that. We can join waiting lists online so as to not endure the pain of sitting at the DMV or the barber or the grocery store. In a world of content, we can always find a podcast to listen to or a show to watch or a book to read. Slowing down and waiting, anticipating, or pausing at all is a countercultural act.
In a world of content, we can always find a podcast to listen to or a show to watch or a book to read
The church calendar gives us a chance to reclaim the act of waiting. We regularly sit in times of preparation, rather than celebration. In Lent and Advent, we intentionally remove words like “Alleluia” to remind us that we are not yet at Easter or Christmas. Our rhythm is like life: we wait, we enjoy, we wait again. Advent and Lent let us practice deferred joy.
This time of preparation and ceding control of our schedules is not new. Waiting is mentioned 116 times in the Bible. Sarah waits for decades to have a child. Jacob waits seven more years to marry Rachel. David writes about it in Psalm 130:5-6, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” One of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples is to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
In Advent, all of our readings remind us that we are waiting for Christ who, as the author of Hebrews writes, “will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). Waiting at the DMV is one thing. Waiting for the Prince of Peace is another.
God’s rhythm is not just for grown-ups.
Advent is not merely for us to learn how to sit in patience, but also for our children. God’s rhythm is not just for grown-ups. We count down with chocolate calendars and light candles around our wreaths, but the new StoryMakers Advent calendar helps children respond to each Advent reading in their own way and to think about what we are waiting for: Jesus who is the Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love we so desperately need.