Had we been paying attention, we would have noticed how diligent God is in setting the table. Five days of creation are devoted to preparation for the wonder to be formed on the sixth. Those who study such things report on the precision with which the earth is hung in space, the angle at which it is oriented to the sun, the speed at which it spins on its axis, the density, depth, and composition of its atmosphere – all ideal for the sustaining of life. God does amazing work in obscurity with no one but the angels to observe and celebrate.
Of course, anyone with any experience in construction would probably tell you the same thing. A building which seems to appear magically out of the ground has been in the works for a much longer time. And the grander the building, the longer the preparation. Someone has a need – a dream. An architect hears and interprets the dream, orienting and anchoring it to a place, working with engineers to solve countless problems, small and great. Resources are marshalled; plans drawn and redrawn, checked and rechecked, submitted and resubmitted. Contractors and sub-contractors add their insights and objections – and finally, the day arrives to begin. And still, it appears that nothing is happening for months. The site is measured, posts are driven, dirt is moved around, holes are dug, tests are made, and on and on and on it goes. And still, no building. But without all that preparation, there would be no beauty, no architecture, no useful space, no anchored place.
The evidence is all around us – wonder takes time. And most of that time is spent on preparation, often in obscurity. In fact, the greater the wonder, the longer and more profound the preparation is likely to be. Thousands of years of prophetic history are needed to lay the ground work of understanding, to make clear the theological rationale, to bring awareness of necessity – to set the stage for the glad song, “Behold, I bring to you news of a great joy!” In fact, if we look even closer, we will notice that preparations for that song and the event it celebrates were underway since before there was a way to keep track of time.
We are so often in a rush to arrive that we don’t have capacity for arrival – we grab before we have capacity to hold – we refuse to wait only to discover we have no capacity for what awaits. That is why Advent makes sense. It is about increasing capacity – about preparing – about waiting. The result of faith-full waiting is the ability to hear angel song and baby cry and know what they mean.