I am sitting at a bus stop in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. I am not the one hoping to board a bus, it is my son-in-law, Andy.
Andy and Maggy have come out to our home in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. Today, though, it is time to head back to New York. Maggy is staying the day since she has work to do with Pam, but Andy is sick—his cold has gotten worse overnight—and he decides to go on home. I offer to take him down to the bus station.
When we get there, there are already thirty five people in line. We have come early, knowing that on the Sunday after Thanksgiving the buses could be crowded. Apparently not early enough.
Andy gets out of the car and stands in line. It is a tick or two above freezing and a light wind is whipping. I hate to see him standing in the cold, but he has to hold his place in line. The bus is due in twenty minutes.
I leave to get gas and pick up a dozen eggs at the grocery store. When I come back, the bus is just pulling up, plenty of people aboard. There can’t be room for thirty five, I think.
I watch as the driver takes tickets and bags for the first in line. Twenty people board. That’s it. The next bus is not scheduled to arrive for two hours, but the driver says they have dispatched another bus that should be here in fifteen or twenty minutes. Andy decides to wait. I tell him to call if it never shows up, or if he can’t stand the cold.
I get back in my car and drive away. I am disappointed, frustrated. It’s a bad way to end a great holiday weekend, leaving Andy standing in that forlorn line, sick, waiting.
Then it occurs to me, this is the first day of Advent. The season of waiting. Someone is coming, Advent tells us. You don’t know when, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to make it happen. All you can do is wait.
God’s advent always challenges our plans, blows up our timeline. We who have so many “privileges” are used to having things our way. We insist that the trains—and buses—run on time. Advent tears up the schedule. This one you don’t control. It will come when it comes, it will happen when it is good and ready.
Preparing for this mysterious advent teaches us patience. Patience is certainly one of the plainest, humblest virtues. It doesn’t sparkle and shine. It is simply the ability to hang in there, to hold on, to let it go another minute, another hour, another day without needing to jump in and “fix” things or find a “sensible” conclusion to the matter.
The plainness of patience means we can practice our awareness of the Presence in very simple ways. When the bus does not come. Whenever we feel aggravated or peeved or anxious, that’s a good sign that we may be sitting in a gold mine of patience!
Not twenty minutes after I left him, Andy texted me. He was on I-78 headed east to New York City, an hour late by our reckoning, but apparently right on time.