Slower than Christmas

Waiting for promises to become realities

From toddlerhood, my daughters have thrown themselves bodily upon my husband and me in our bed on Christmas morning, the only day of the year when they get up before us. Even as teenagers, not far from adulthood, they're utterly unburdened by the season's stresses and unacquainted—God be thanked—with any of the disasters that revisit me at Christmastime. For them, Advent is entirely a forward-looking time, all about the wonderful joys to come—gingerbread houses, presents, new clothes, snow. It's a month of anticipation so giddy and pleasurable it can hardly be called waiting.

For me, though, the waiting is complicated by anxiety and doubt. Will joy ever come? I wonder. At some point, it generally does. Sometimes a song at church cheers me, or an act of kindness from one of my daughters. Once, it was the hilarious moment when, while decorating our tree, we discovered my previous year's present from my mother-in-law, two folded up hundred dollar bills, inside a little box-shaped ornament we hang on a prominent branch every year for that purpose. Until that moment of turning, though—indeed, throughout most of Advent—a single word prayer inhabits my consciousness: Come!

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