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To Wait: How French Expresses Waiting [Advent]



Language influences how we perceive or understand concepts. Think, for example, about how you may prefer different translations of the Bible for certain verses because the specific words transform your understanding of the meaning.


For Advent this year, I'm exploring the verb "to wait" in different languages. You can read the first post on Sign Language here. Today I'm talking in French. Oui, s'il vous plait.


I took almost seven years of French. I loved it. The fullness of the language in my mouth. The whimsical notions of a European life. It was a familiar language, and yet uncommon.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles and married a Guatemalan. And I've spent the last nine years trying to forget all the French I know.

It's just similar enough to Spanish to keep me generally confused. Once, while working with a Spanish language tutor, I kept triumphantly announcing vocabulary only to have her tell me no. I was getting frustrated (and more baffled) until I realized I was shouting out the French translations.

But in considering the words of waiting for Advent, I returned my French roots. The verb "to wait" can be translated into French as attendre. You may recognize a word in there: attend.

If you read far enough down in the English definition of wait, you will find a similar explanation related to waiter. Wait can also be defined as waiting on someone, or attending them.

In fact, another way to translate "wait" into French is to use the French verb servir. To serve.

As I wait on the Christ child, what does it mean to attend to him, to serve him?

I feel like this is a question best answered at the source. What does God say?
You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me. I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me. (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
We are living in times when others' hunger and thirst is often characterized as "not my problem." When the sick are told they should tend to their own needs. When it's acceptable to say the prisoner deserves any suffering he experiences, including loneliness or death. When strangers are being turned away in the name of fear.

How do we wait on the Christ child this season?

I'm not talking about donating clothes as we clean our closets in preparation for New Year's. I always want to consider these questions in the context of relationship. If I am attending Jesus and he needs a drink, I don't want to assume someone else will hand him a glass.

My heart for immigration draws me to the words of welcoming the stranger. Who are the new arrivals in our country, our city, our neighborhoods? How do we invite them in this holiday season? How do we make room for them at our tables?

Let us consider how can serve others this Christmas as wait on Christ.

Posts in this year's Advent series:
Week 1: Sign Language
Week 2: French
Week 3: Emojis
Week 4: Spanish

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