In Noel Coward’s 1935 play, Red Peppers, the following exchange takes place:
GEORGE: I saw a very strange thing the other day.
LILY: What was it?
GEORGE: Twelve men standing under one umbrella and they didn't get wet.
LILY: How's that?
GEORGE: It wasn't raining. [Wait for it—wait for it.]
The “wait for it” phrase is an old vaudevillian practice used in rehearsal to remind the actors to wait for the laughter to build and die-down before delivering the next line. Coward probably inserted the line in his play because if the joke didn’t get a laugh, the actors wait for the laugh surely would. Since then, the phrase has been used countless times for comic relief in plays and TV situation comedies. And now, I use it to define one of the foundational principles of Advent.
Advent is a season of anticipation, the Advent wreath grows in brightness each week and the scripture readings draw us closer to the big day. But, there’s nothing we can do to get the days to pass by any faster. There is naturally, or necessarily at least, a certain joy in the ability to just wait-for-it.
Advent nags at us. As we go about preparing all the trappings of Christmas, making ready the presents, food and decorations Advent asks us to just wait. And it’s not the kind of waiting we might do for a bus. It is more like waiting for something really important, you know, like a birth or something. Advent nags at us, reminding us that it’s not about preparing the presents, food and decorations; it’s about preparing our hearts. Advent nags at us, reminding us that we prepare our hearts to receive Christ child. There is no joy more worth the waiting.