On November 29, my wife and I became grandparents for the first time. When I walked into the hospital to see my daughter cuddling little Charlotte, it was a magical moment, just like it was when all three of our children came into the world.
The season of Advent is like a pregnancy. It involves waiting, hoping, preparing, expecting. Some people don’t like to wait, but it can be a time of excitement as we ponder possibilities and hold onto hope.
How fitting that my granddaughter was born just before Advent, to remind me once again of this powerful time of anticipation. We had waited nine long months for her debut and, in reality, even longer as my wife and I relished being grandparents for years.
On the other end of waiting, if our hearts have nurtured the right things, there is Joy. But even Joy is not a thing to be grasped, but a sweet pang to be continually experienced — for when one God-given joy is received, another season of expectation opens up. As C.S. Lewis put it, “All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be.'”
Psychologists as well as theologians point to this truth. In the 2007 issue of the Journal Of Experimental Psychology, Leaf Van Boven and Laurence Ashworth noted, “Our research suggests that the enjoyment people glean from anticipation might … be an important component of life satisfaction.” Think about it: when you finish a great novel, you savor the next time you can visit the library to check out the sequel, or when you complete a fun cruise, you build up excitement by planning the next one.
The birth of our precious granddaughter was the culmination of nine months of waiting. But there will be more anticipatory moments as we watch her grow up: the approach of her first birthday, getting ready for those first tottering steps, preparing for the first day of school. And that’s a wonderful thing: these little moments of of Joy spur us on to wanting more.
How beautiful that God has built this sense of longing in our souls. These earthly yearnings are tiny tokens of the greatest yearning of all: to know and to be known by God. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Have a great Advent. Anticipate much.