So as many of you know Tim and I had the last of our three kids fly the nest in the fall. In the span of three weeks last August, I teared up when Nick drove away for Laughlin Air Force Base with everything he owned in the back of a short-bed pickup; I sobbed the night before Ben left for a year of study abroad; and I hugged tight so as to disguise my tears in Anna Kate’s newly decorated dorm room while a bevy of girls awkwardly looked on. And then faster than you can say road trip, we were on the move. In the words of my sweet daughter to our oldest son, “Mom and dad are enjoying their empty nest just a little too much.”

And maybe it’s precisely because of all the bittersweet goodbyes combined with the playful fun of the newly realized empty nest that I am so ready for them all to be home for the holidays. Some waiting is like that. It has us brimming with excitement of something wonderful that is just beyond our reach.

As I reflect on this season of Advent, this season of waiting, I know that joyful anticipation is only one way to wait. Some waiting, on the other hand, is excruciating. Sometimes waiting is a burden that carries with it fear of the unknown, sadness that things aren’t as they used to be, regret over unfinished business, unmended relationships, things still left undone. If you are in a season of waiting that leaves you more anxious than eager, bless you. It’s a hard place to be.

But the beauty of Advent — the hope of Advent — is that even in our waiting, He is with us. Emmanuel.  God is with us in the suffering and sadness, the fear and unknowing, the weariness of a warring world, the pain and the ache and the deep dark nights of our souls. Sometimes — often — we don’t know it until we are out the other side of whatever it is we are enduring. But our not knowing doesn’t change what is. God is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Make no mistake about it, God is present. WE are often unaware, my friends, but God is NEVER not with us, right smack in the middle of it all.

And so we wait. Not always joyfully, and sometimes with a shaky faith. But we wait and we hope and we wonder at the magnificent plan of it all. We do our best to offer kindness and gratitude and love, and we live with the hope that God’s coming will offer a Light to the world that we can’t even begin to imagine.

As we wait this Advent for the coming of the babe in the manger, may we also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that even now in this very moment, bidden or unbidden, He is here.