Written by Brian Johnson
When I was a kid, Christmas meant Peanut Butter Balls. Little balls of peanut butter mixed with sugar, dipped in chocolate. When they cooled, they were like a Reese’s cup, only ten times better. When I was a kid, I thought they were my mom’s secret recipe, some magical thing that she had invented, that only we knew about, and that she only broke out once a year. When I got older, I learned that they were very similar to what other people call “buckeyes.” But, as a child, all I knew is that we only got to eat them at Christmas, and that they were wonderful.
There was something of a ritual, a liturgy, to making them. Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, after a lunch of leftovers and a few hours of shopping, my mom would mix the sugary peanut butter mixture together. She’d make a huge bowl of it and set it in the fridge. The next day, on Saturday, my dad would set up two TV trays in front of the couch, turn on college football, and get to work. On one TV tray was the giant bowl of peanut butter mixture. On the other, an empty bowl (and probably some snacks for Dad, too). Slowly, as he watched football, he’d take a little bit of the mixture, roll it between his hands, make it into a perfect ball – Dad was nothing if not a stickler for details – and then, once the ball was completed, he’d drop it in the other bowl, the empty bowl (which he slowly filled). This was the part of the process that I hated the most, because it took so long, and my dad was so methodical about it, and all I wanted was for him to be done, and for those balls of peanut butter to be dipped in melted chocolate, and for them to cool in the fridge, and for me to get to devour them.
The process always took days. I always thought that it was too much – too long – for me to endure. All that waiting just seemed cruel. But, then, when it finally happened – on Sunday night, or maybe Monday, when everything was done and the Peanut Butter Balls were ready to eat – when it was finally time, it was worth it. The waiting, the effort, the careful measuring of each Peanut Butter Ball, the careful mixing to get the balance of salty and sweet just right – all of it came together to form a perfect bite, something on which I’d spend the next month feasting, and of which I would spend the rest of the year dreaming. All that working, all that waiting – but it was worth it.
Advent is a season of waiting – it’s a time when we slow down and pay attention. It’s not Christmas yet, but, each day, we get a little bit closer. Each day, we slow down, we pay attention, we look around for what God is doing and how God is at work in our world. It is a time of getting ready for a celebration, but the celebration isn’t here just yet. Soon – before we know it – the waiting will be over. Soon, Advent will be replaced by Christmas, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God With Us. But for now, we wait.
This year feels like a season of waiting, too. Limitations on where we can go, what we can see. Locked away, trying to “flatten the curve” and “stop the spread.” Now, there’s news of vaccines that are on the way – and there’s hope that these vaccines might change things, might help us find our way back together, might help us safely return to a more normal life – but, they’re not ready for us yet. We are still waiting. Our world this year has also wrestled with injustice, suffering, pain, bigotry, and many other challenges. And, while much good has been done in the face of many challenges, we are still working, waiting, trying to make things right.
We are waiting, hoping, longing for Good News. We are waiting, yearning, for Jesus to come and make things right. We are waiting for the time when all will be as it should be. But, the promise of Christmas is that that day is coming. We will not be waiting forever. God’s victory has come, and is coming, to us.
May you wait patiently for what God is doing. May you trust that your faith will be rewarded. And, one day soon, may God’s joy and peace overwhelm you suddenly, and may it be as glorious as a Peanut Butter Ball.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!