We were waiting for her, and we didn’t even know it. When our family of four decided to host an international exchange student, it felt like a leap of faith. Why add uncertainty to our already full lives? What country would our student come from? Would they fit into our family routines? Then Beatrice arrived from Italy, and our family immediately expanded to include a high school senior.

We had waited before for things such as holidays, vacations, getting a dog. But waiting for a person who you know will change your life and that of your family? How do you prepare for that?

Advent is the ultimate waiting partner. When we’re willing to be changed but also nervous, Advent says, “I’m here with you.” Advent recognizes that you’re doing something you haven’t done before, and before you even ask, it is already along for the ride.

Consider the different characters you place in your crèche: the holy family, angels, animals, magi, shepherds. Imagine what Elizabeth felt when her cousin Mary approached, pregnant with Jesus, and Elizabeth’s child John “leaped” in her womb: “Blessed is she,” Elizabeth exclaims, “who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:41, 45). Each of them is waiting for Christ in her own way—neither of them alone.

Advent is the ultimate waiting partner. When we’re willing to be changed but also nervous, Advent says, “I’m here with you.”

As you wait during this season of Advent, where do you find company?

We find company in our exchange student. She was a gift we didn’t know we needed. Beatrice brought warmth, wonder and laughter into our lives. We learned the correct way to boil pasta, that pizza truly is universal and, most important, that generosity spans people and cultures.

When she returns home, our next period of waiting will begin as we look forward to seeing her again. This time, however, we trust that the wait will be worth it.

As we become more familiar with waiting this Advent, may we learn to trust that the missing, the longing and the hoping are all part of the gift of waiting. And as we look for signs of our beloved, may Christ make himself known, as gift, as generosity, as Emmanuel (God with us).


  • Send a card to loved ones you may or may not see over the holidays. Tell them that you look forward to seeing them soon or that you hope to see them another time.
  • Make angel sugar cookies and talk about waiting as they bake. Surprise neighbors with cookies and let them know they aren’t alone.
  • Use an ELCA World Hunger Advent resource (org/hunger/resources) to count each day of waiting and serving until Christmas.
Janelle Rozek Hooper
Janelle Rozek Hooper is the ELCA program manager for Ministry with Children and the author of Heaven on Earth: Studies in Matthew (Augsburg Fortress, 2010). Learn more about her at evescuriousgarden.org.

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