God waited.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation
Every year, it’s the same: the intensifying liturgical readings, the weekly lighting of another candle, building anticipation. For all its predictability, Advent is my favorite season. It never ceases to awaken something that lies dormant deep within me.

But why? After all, I already know what’s waiting at the end, so why go through the annual charade of suspense?

For starters, it’s the way that Advent invites me to practice patience and presence before rushing headlong into parties and presents. It’s the balance between darkness and light, and the reminder that the former is every bit as important as the latter. It’s the silence and the longing.

It’s because each Advent takes me deeper into the mystery of a God who loves us enough to meet us on our turf, becoming human so that we might come to know God. It’s the already-not-yet paradox of Advent: even as we stand in awe of past and present incarnation, our souls long for a union with God that we haven’t yet experienced.

But one more reason has occurred to me this year. It’s the realization that Advent is about waiting, but not only on our part. God also waits on us. 

I’ve found no better representation of this truth than Denise Levertov’s brilliant poem, “The Annunciation.” It hovers in the space between the angel’s greeting and Mary’s answer. (“This was the moment no one speaks of / when she could still refuse.”) And it reminds me that our lives are no different. God invites, then God waits. What happens next is up to us.

So although we stand on the brink of Christmas, gift yourself one last Advent moment today to read Levertov’s poem. Don’t worry: if God will wait, then Christmas can, too.

Christin Tomy, OP
Sinsinawa, WI


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