I used to look forward to those times when there were "breaks" of time when nothing much happened. You may remember...or you may be enjoying one now...they are those times when, as a student, I was between semesters. One season of work was done. Finished. Completed. Another was not going to start for a while, yet; and so the focus of the time-between was to rest and relax. Taking some time in-between meant having time to visit with friends. It meant having time to wonder about what to do and to not feel bound to a deadline or another due date.
Of course, those times are pretty much gone from my life now. Being a priest, when others are "off," I am "on." Christmas is a time of being quite busy. We are rehearsing and preparing liturgies. We are making last minute runs for outreach ministries and of course as a Church we are getting ready to end the year and write the final reports for the wider Church's consumption. The time-between is now laden with logistical and pastoral challenges, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Still, I find myself thinking about those times of being in-between. For a good deal of my younger days, thost were restful moments.
Now, though, I am mindful that for so many people in the world the time in-between is one of anxiety and worry. I just got word of an aquaintence who gave birth yesterday and is now sitting outside the NICU as her newborn son struggles with a health complication. I know there are families out there without solid means of support who are wondering in the time in-between how they are going to make Christmas for their kids. I know there are people in hospice being cared for by families and friends who are hoping to not die on Christmas in order to avoid marking that holiday with grief for those they leave behind.
I guess that my perspective on the time in-between has grown up a bit since those days when I looked forward to catching up on the rest I had deferred during the last hard push to the close of the season. Now, I see that time of in-between as one that is powerfully fraught with intense and demanding emotions of expectancy and anticipation. "What will happen next" fills us with a dreadful hope.
What better way to look toward the celebration of the birth of the Incarnate One....the one promised for so long, who was to be king of kings, lord of lords....
On the longest nights of the year, at a time when the frost and cold cause us to draw up into ourselves in order to contain what heat we can in our worrying selves...that is when God comes to us.
In the time in-between.