Wait. No one likes to be told to wait. In today’s culture waiting is not something that is welcomed. To wait is to pause and allow other events to take place. Waiting takes control out of our hands. In this last week of Advent, we look at the Holy Family and the waiting they endured.
How long did Mary and Joseph have to wait in Bethlehem? We don’t really know and there are various answers, but it was probably a few years. While we know it was the census that took Mary & Joseph to Bethlehem, we have no idea if they both waited in line to register or if only Joseph went. While the birth of a baby can bring enough disruption to a regular routine, this was a double whammy. They had to put their lives in Nazareth on pause and travel to register for the census and with the birth of Jesus, they ended up staying for at least over a year. In recent history, most people would have found that unimaginable, yet this pandemic has shown us all how life can be disrupted for such an extended amount of time.
One thing that waiting does give us is the gift of time. During the period of waiting, we can use that time to reflect. Depending on what is causing us to wait, it can be a positive reflection on the blessings that God has bestowed on us, or it can be more of a prayer to surrender to God’s will. When we know the duration, waiting can be a bit easier to accept and may even lead to anticipation, where we look forward to the resolution of the wait. But an unknown wait duration can be challenging unless we look for the little blessings we receive daily. While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, we know their waiting was punctuated with at least two visits. One was from a group of shepherds who told of them of the magnificent announcement from the angels. The second was from a group of wise astrologers, who followed a star to find the special Child whose birth it heralded. I would have to think that Mary and Joseph also had some extended family in Bethlehem for the census that also visited them, however, they may not have stayed as long as Mary and Joseph did.
It can be tempting to busy ourselves when we are waiting, to fill this time that seems empty. Yet if we take too much on, we can end up exhausting ourselves rather than taking time to rest and be refreshed when our waiting comes to an end. This is especially true from a spiritual perspective, and we need to carefully balance our daily activities while allowing time for rest and reflection. Let us use this last week of Advent to embrace waiting and the time it gives us as gifts given in anticipation of Christmas.