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To Wait: How Sign Language Expresses Waiting [Advent]



Advent is one of my favorite times of year. And each year, I write an Advent blog series during December. I'll post past years at the end, if you're interested is reading those reflections. 

This year, I'm focusing on the verb "to wait." Advent is a time of waiting. But how do our languages express waiting? Each week, I'm looking at the verb through the lens of four different languages. 

First up: Sign Language.


My son is almost two and a half. And he's obsessed with squeezy applesauce. (I mean, who isn't?) As we waited in line to order our food at Smashburger (which I'm obsessed with), he noticed a pouch of apple-y goodness on display behind the drinks.

He freaked. He started grunting and whooping like Curious George. He started pleading, "A-ppo Saaahhh!" He was pointing with passionate agitation.

"Yes, I told him. I hear you. We are ordering. You must wait." My fingers instinctively wiggled in the sign we've used with our kids for years.


I have been struck by this sign. It's not how I would instinctively think to communicate "wait" non-verbally. I'd likely choose instead to tap my wrist (remember watches?) or stare into space while tapping my foot.

But my non-verbals communicate impatience, where as the actual sign - though stationary - conveys movement. It's active waiting.

As I reflect on Advent, I wonder what it means to wait actively for the Christ child. Actually, I get a bit excited. Activity is my jam. Let's wait for Christmas actively! Let's go to lights displays! Let's see a live pageant! Let's embark on a daily reading plan!

But there's a difference between "being active" and "being busy." 

I was recently considering a packed Advent calendar of my own creation. I'd come up with a family-friendly Christmas-focused activity for every day from now until Christmas. But honestly, just the idea of writing all that down was making me a little bit tired.

So how do I wait actively without just filling the December calendar full of activity? When I think of active waiting, I think of eagerness, not impatience. What does it mean to be eager for the arrival of God?


For me, it means opening my eyes and looking for Christ's presence in the day-to-day. Am I eager to see God's bursting into the human world? Am I looking for that to happen?

Active waiting also speaks to me of preparation. Am I preparing my heart and mind for Christ's birth? What wrongs am I holding onto and refusing to forgive? What sins need to be confessed? What wounds need to be cleaned and dressed so they can begin to heal?

This eagerness and preparation for Christ can actually be lost is we surround ourselves with busy-ness. A crammed calendar or a daunting list of Christmas to-do's (no matter how fun) can distract us from the activity of waiting.

So my hope this first week of Advent is to pause and wiggle my fingers. To wait with meaningful movement that is ready for the baby to come.

You may be interested in Advent series from past years:
2014: The Journey - a 4-part fictional account of the Christmas Story
2013: Advent Rest (one post only)
2012: Please Come
2011: Expectations
2010: Waiting for a Baby
Posts in this year's Advent series:
Week 1: Sign Language
Week 2: French
Week 3: Emojis
Week 4: Spanish

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