The ducklings are just at the age for full, unrelenting, uninhibited, luxuriant enjoyment of Christmas. They wallow in it. The tree must always be lighted, the music must all be Christmas, every moment is one of calculations of when and how Christmas will arrive or begging me to undertake this or that Christmas activity. Gifts are part of it, yes, but really only a minor part, and a very non-caluclating part. (They were giddy for days over the toothbrushes and wind-up-toys St. Nicholas left in their boots.) They revel in the whole of the season.
I was that child, too. It is part of the fun of being a parent to live through all that over again.
Somewhere on the road to growing up, like most of us, I lost the ability to exuberate like that. For many years Christmas passed tinged with a bit of regret that it never quite measured up to the Christmases of childhood.
Lately, I have come to realize that regret and disappointment had a place, too. And its place is in Advent. Advent is waiting. Not just the impatient, gleeful waiting of children rattling gifts to discover what is inside.
It is the frustrated waiting of the oppressed, who have returned to the Promised Land only to find that they still cannot live in freedom.
It is the fearful waiting of parents for the coming of a child after a stillbirth.
It is the waiting of the sick, the weary, the injured, waiting for justice, for healing, for rest.
It is waiting that knows that waiting is not just about time, but about loss and danger, about all the ways the world has broken its promises, over and over.
Hope is only hope if we do not yet have the thing we hope for. And Advent is the time to know that now is not yet the time. Our redemption is begun, but not complete.
And I have found in accepting the waiting, in not trying to rush myself into jollity, that I have made room for hope again, and so for joy.