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Saturday, November 15, 2014

WHAT OUR GRANDPARENTS TAUGHT US ABOUT THE JOYS OF ADVENT WAITING

Friends, greetings to you.

Let’s begin with a true story told by my dad about his family’s Christmas tree.

When Clarence was a child (one of nine) in a farm family in rural Eastern Washington, his father set up an evergreen tree in the living room a week or so before Christmas. The hitch was that the tree was undecorated. No gifts were allowed under its branches, no lights were placed on its bows. The kids had to wait. 

On Christmas Eve, the parents insisted, “Now you children go to bed.” Only then the parents decorated the tree with genuine fire-burning candles. Presents were placed with love on the floor under the tree.

Upon awakening early on Christmas morning, the children rushed to see the decorated tree and the presents. But there were still more thrills awaiting. The family gathered, grandpa told the Christmas story and then carefully lit the candles, one by one. The family sang “Oh Christmas tree.” Then, to avoid fire danger, the candles were snuffed out promptly. The tree had blazed in glory for five minutes or so.




Next, the kids finally opened their presents joyfully. Then they gathered around the table for Christmas breakfast, the first of two regal Christmas meals. The entire day was a day of joy, happiness and sharing.

Later, perhaps mid-Twentieth Century, many old and holy Advent customs began to give way. Black Friday after Thanksgiving became a special holiday in its own right, so-called “black” for retailers’ black ink.  In 2014, one notable on-line store has run a black Friday countdown with special email offers every day, urging us to "get buying now!" 

Admittedly, it’s certainly true that we have to prepare for Christmas well in advance. In the early 1900s they did too. Otherwise, there would have been nothing to wait for. But the oldies succeeded at preparing discreetly while evoking a sense of waiting. The commercial world didn't dominate the waiting period as it does now, seemingly. 

So my question is: What has happened to discreetly waiting?

There were and still are values to waiting, to the teaching of waiting and to practice waiting. But we (or it is just me?) are caught between a quiet period of waiting and the month or more of promotional sales which turns into anxious frenzy.  

Waiting is a learnable art. It's a responsibility to teach this art.

Someone said, “In today’s world it’s impossible to live like they did on the farm 100 years ago.” That is true. But still, it's worthwhile to save the virtues of waiting from extinction. While we can’t simply copy the oldies, we can adapt some of their practices.

Do you or your family practice the value of waiting for Christmas?  It would be great if you'd share them in the comment zone below.

A wonderful online resource of the Vanderbilt University Library provides resources suitable to the pre-Christmas waiting period--appropriate scriptures, prayers and art--that you may find to be useful. Click the link to give it a try.

Know anyone who'd like to try the art of waiting? Click below and share the post. Thanks for reading!

The photo file reproduced above is licensed under the Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Gerbil.



1 comment:

John J. Shaffer said...

I am afraid that I have ruined some aspects of Christmas, but the act sure saves me some time and anguish. Several years ago we were in Joseph, Oregon, and visited a bronze foundry, seeing an item that my wife "liked". But the price was prohibitive psychologically. So I came up with the idea of a Christmas (and birthday) present that would last 5 years. I didn't make her wait 5 years, I purchased it and then pointed at it on the appropriate occasion. Alas, the five years are up. A recent trip to Africa provided a stone carving that takes care of this year. But anticipation is a lost art in our family.