Gina Christian

“I should have gone to register nine,” I thought, drumming my fingers on the shopping cart handle as I stood in line at the grocery store.

Hemmed in by another cart and unable to change lanes, I remembered an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Apu, the owner of a small market, shows Marge how to speed through the checkout by sizing up the customers. “Look for single men paying cash for a few dinner items,” he advises. “They don’t chitchat.”

Most of us hate to wait. We interrupt, weave in and out of traffic and rummage through the Christmas presents in the closet. No time to cook; hit the drive-through or call for takeout. No time to save up for purchases; buy them now, on credit. The Christmas season begins in October; scouring the shelves for last-minute Halloween candy this year, I almost ended up giving my trick-or-treaters chocolate Santas.

Every Advent, we’re invited to learn how to wait — how to be patient, how to prepare our hearts for the Lord. Scripture directs our gaze away from the holiday-harried minute to the stillness of a starlit manger, where eternity entered into the everyday.

And every year, many of us resolve to embrace the gift of Advent. We’re determined to put down the wrapping paper, stop fussing with the tree lights, be still and know that the Lord is truly God (Psalm 46:11).

But Advent also calls us to another kind of waiting.

Born once in the flesh, Christ will not appear as a babe in Bethlehem this year — or next, or ever again. But he will be present, as he always is, in those made in the image and likeness of God.

And as he always is, he will be especially present in the poor, the unloved, the outcast, the marginalized. His are the hands of the migrant and the refugee, reaching out to ours for rescue. His are the eyes of those suffering from addiction and mental illness, seeking compassion. His is the voice of those silenced by injustice. His are the feet of those who have walked away from the faith, brokenhearted but ultimately longing to come home.

The Son of God will be in the bedraggled man who begs outside your favorite coffee shop. The Lion of Judah will be in the single mother struggling to pay for her children’s clothing at the department store. The Messiah will be in the frustrated coworker who needs your words of encouragement, and in the wayward teen who needs your guidance.

While we wait for the Lord to be born in our hearts, let us also wait on him by serving him in these others.

Every act of kindness and patience, every moment spent listening to our brothers and sisters, every step walked in solidarity, every prayer uttered in intercession — these are the ways in which we recognize the time of his visitation, and the sign that we truly believe this holy child is indeed “Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:24).

***

Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.