Not long ago I was waiting in King’s Cross station in London for a train to Scotland. There was quite a delay, and the train was over an hour late when it finally left. When I got on, I found a seat opposite a man many years older than me. I had a good moan to him about the delay, but what he said to me in reply made me stop and think. He knew he had to wait, he said, and that he had the choice of waiting patiently, or waiting impatiently, At his age he said, waiting patiently came quite easily, and he used the time to get himself ready for seeing his daughter and his grandchildren.
I was struck by that: I spent that hour in London waiting impatiently, and it affected me for the worse; he waited patiently, and it affected him for the better, and I presume it affected his meeting with his daughter and grandchildren. The difference between us? He enjoyed his wait, and the subsequent journey, and I let my impatience and annoyance get the better of me.
What the old man said to me that day gets to the heart of what we do each year in Advent. We are waiting for, and preparing for, Christmas. We can wait impatiently, like a young child does, or like I did, or we can wait patiently, like this old man did. But not only did he wait patiently, he used the time of waiting to get himself ready for why he had made the journey in the first place. It’s a choice we all have: to wait for Christmas patently, or impatiently. If we wait impatiently, it may well mean that the incidentals have too much of our attention: the shopping, the parties, the cooking….. These are all good and healthy parts of the celebration, but they are not the whole story.
We all know what the whole story is: the birth of the Messiah, and the chance for a new beginning. We wait for Christmas the way we might wait for a special friend to come and visit us. We get things ready, we get our house in order and make sure everything is the way we want them to find it when they arrive, including ourselves.
It’s just the same with the coming of Christ: we want Him to find us at our best, and to be ready. We want to make the most of the wonderful occasion, and we want to get the most out of it.
So, during the Advent season, let’s use the time in the best possible way: let’s wait patiently, and prepare well.
Vatican Radio, Englsih Programme (30.11.2011)