Seek joy, not happiness, during Advent Print
Everyday Faith
Thursday, Dec. 07, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Everyday Faith column by Julianne Nornberg

“I don’t like waiting.”

The whining voice I heard came from my young daughter, complaining about having to wait for her next birthday.

“It’s too far away,” she said. “I’ll be old and wrinkly by then.”

I laughed out loud, but truly, that plaintive voice is one that echoes inside each of us, whether we are children or adults, teenagers or grandparents.

The waiting game

Nobody likes waiting, and yet, life requires it.

Whether we are waiting for a new toy to arrive or for the school year to end, or whether we are waiting for our wedding day or the birth of a new baby, or whether we are waiting for retirement to allow us more freedom in our days, we humans of every age are required to wait at periods throughout our lives.

During this season of Advent, waiting is the number one theme.

Despite the Christmas decorations that accompanied Halloween décor in stores everywhere, we Catholics are reminded that the Christmas season does not actually begin until Christmas Eve.

It is hard to remember in a culture that throws out its Christmas trees the day after Christmas.

And yet, we must wait. And we must teach our children to wait, despite what the “gimme-now” society does.

Day by day we must ready our hearts for Our Lord, who will come to us on Christmas day.

How much Mary, Our Mother, must have yearned to meet her Son, the Savior of the world! And yet, she rose each morning, put each foot forward, worked, prayed, and waited. Just as each of us is called to do.

Advantages of waiting

Life is made up of a series of periods of waiting. But if we don’t live in the present, we will have missed all the thousands of tiny meaningful moments that took place during the times we were waiting for the next big event to happen.

Kids are fighting with each other? Then set aside what I’m doing and help them learn the ways of forgiveness. A child is sick in the night and I have to call in absent for work? Then let me serve that child with love, not resentment and worry. An elderly parent has called for the 15th time in one day? Then let me answer each call with the utmost patience.

These are the tiny moments of life that compose the time between waiting for the big events of happiness, and these are the things upon which our character will be judged. While we are waiting, let’s live the best we can in each moment.

No matter what we are waiting for, it symbolizes for each of us something more, something better, and something that will increase our happiness.

Whether we are waiting for a better job opportunity, a vacation, some kind of happiness in this workaday world filled with so much despair and confusion, we wait for these wisps of happiness like children chasing snowflakes. Yet, when we catch them, the happiness soon melts away.

Joy of waiting for Christ

But a deep-seated joy in Our Lord does not melt away. Joy is much deeper than fleeting happiness and sustains us through all of life’s endless waiting and tribulations. It comes from having a relationship with Jesus, loving Him, and knowing that He loves you beyond all measure.

And how do you cultivate such a relationship, such joy? By spending time with Our Lord in prayer and Adoration, reading His Word, participating fully in the Mass, receiving the sacraments often.

We know these things, and yet we let the busy-ness of the season and the chasing of snowflakes of happiness crowd out our quest for true joy.

“Joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us, but in the inner recesses of the soul,” said St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace.”

Advent season

During this season of Advent, learn to wait patiently as Our Blessed Mother did.

Slow down. Simplify. Schedule time for prayer, Adoration, and Confession first, ahead of shopping and decorating.

Focus on developing your relationship with Jesus, which requires identifying and cleaning out sinfulness. This takes time. And patience. And waiting. But this is the type of waiting that results in true joy, not just short periods of happiness.

Go hug your children. See Our Lord behind their eyes. Live in the moment with them, whatever type of moment that may be, for soon they will be grown, and then they will be chasing snowflakes of happiness of their own.

But you can help them pursue true joy instead, by setting the example of developing your own relationship with Jesus first.

Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.