The last few days before Christmas tend toward an almost magical tranquility.
A peace begins to seep into the general holiday milieu. A wispy cloud of serenity settles over the bustle, slowing the frantic pace for all, with the possible exceptions of clergy with unfinished sermons, last-minute shoppers, and travelers whose itineraries have been usurped by weather.
Neck-deep in the season of goodwill, I send them good thoughts and press on with the holiday baking.
It’s a gentle glide into the most silent and holy of nights. All things calm. All things bright. Accompanied by the unhurried tinkling of bells, of course.
At least that’s how it is most years.
This year, though. This year is … well, let’s just say it’s different.
This year my experience is not so much enveloped in magical tranquility as dumped into a hospital waiting room. Sure, it may be a metaphor – and I can’t promise it won’t end up mixed – but it’s still the last place anyone wants to be at the end of an excruciating year of delays and pauses and postponements.
In most waiting rooms, it’s bleak and drab. The passable furnishings and nondescript wall décor fail in their one job to comfort and reassure. And it’s isolating, with interpersonal connections alternating between idle chatter and weighty silence. Worst of all: the exit is nowhere to be found.
The one cheerful exception is the maternity floor, where no one cares about chairs and paintings and intellectual level of chitchat, because joyful anticipation is front and center.
A quick glance around, and I wonder how my normal holiday good nature morphed into an incessant wait-wait-wait. Has all that happened this year conditioned me to see only a lackluster passive waiting area, even in this merry time of year? What am I waiting for now?
Conversations may be shallow, but the question begs to be asked: Is it because the inert activity of waiting cannot generate more depth, or is it because I have switched all rapport to receiving mode? When small talk subsides, do I prefer to flounder in the silence or accept the quiet invitation to reflect?
So many questions, so little patience I have these days to ponder them.
But I can reflect. Reflections lead to observations, which turn to insights, which become discernments – some of them pretty wild, like the one that screams out in answer to my questions:
Girl, you are outside God’s birthing room. Get on your knees.
And here’s how I know this is true: Waiting is a torment – unless you’re outside God’s birthing room. Out here, exasperation and indifference evolve into expectation and hope. Even the relatively quiet actions of meditations and prayer can be energizing if you’re working with God’s playbook.
And inside the birthing room? In there, it’s active and alive and spirited – literally. A great labor is happening, with precise detail. God is creating life – a prerogative that belongs solely to Him – as a deliberate choice.
Amid the pain and blood, with all the preparation and provision happening in that birthing room, we cannot lose sight of the fact that God is doing a new thing for the singular purpose of saving us.
God chooses us. And He keeps choosing us. Every year. Every day, actually.
This insight isn’t new. I’ve always known this as truth.
But maybe my head needed my heart to hear it too.
Maybe that’s what the wait was about.