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Waiting Times

Advent, the season of waiting

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider how we feel about waiting, linking this to Advent.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Waiting Times) and the means to display them.


  1. Show Slides 1 to 2.

    For each slide, ask the students how they feel when they see this on their screen.

  2. Show Slide 3.

    Ask the students how they feel when they are waiting for a game to load.

  3. Point out that waiting is part of our everyday lives. In 2019, an insurance company commissioned a study that found that British people spend around 6.7 years of their lives just waiting around. This is equivalent to 11 per cent of the average adult life expectancy.

    The research also revealed the things that people typically spend their time waiting for. Waiting for technology to load was on the list, as well as several other common features of life.

    Show Slide 4.

    - Waiting for food to cook.
    - Waiting for other people to arrive.
    - Queuing.
    - Waiting for the kettle to boil.
    - Being on hold.
    - Waiting for traffic lights to change.
    - Waiting for a bus or train.

  4. At this time of year, many of us are waiting for the term to finish, so that we can enjoy the festive break.

    Some of us may have written a list of Christmas presents that we’d like and are waiting to see whether family and friends take note of our list!

  5. I wonder what our experiences of waiting feel like for each of us.

    How we feel about waiting is affected by how we approach a wait. One person’s experience of waiting might be filled with frustration and irritation, if they are focused on getting to a certain location or completing a certain task within a time frame. Someone else might regard the wait as something that is outside their control, leading them to calmly accept the situation. This outlook might lead them to feel grateful for the chance to daydream or stretch their leg muscles as they queue up.

    There is also the fact that waiting is a central element of games and activities that many people find enjoyable, such as bingo, raffles and quizzes.

  6. The experience of waiting is the subject of a long-running study funded by the Wellcome Trust. Researchers have focussed on people’s experiences of waiting in and for healthcare, such as waiting at the GP surgery or in A&E, or being on a waiting list for a medical assessment or procedure.

    NHS waiting times are often covered in the news, especially as winter approaches. However, the researchers wanted to get a different perspective. They listened to hundreds of people’s experiences of waiting for healthcare, and created a space where these experiences could be shared.

    Scanning special QR codes on the walls of surgeries and hospitals took people to a dedicated website where they could view artwork, stories and poems inspired by others’ experiences of waiting. People were also encouraged to share their own thoughts while they sat in waiting rooms. In this way, the experience of waiting became something that inspired creativity.

  7. The idea that waiting provides a chance to be inspired is not new.

    In the Christian calendar, we are in the season of Advent right now. Advent is the four-week period that leads up to Christmas, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. For Christians around the world, Advent is a time to pray and experience a deepening of their faith as they reflect on the experience of waiting.

  8. Show Slide 5.

    In the Nativity story, we read how Mary waited and reflected during her pregnancy.

    Throughout Advent, Christians pray that their waiting helps to bring them closer to God, creating a deeper faith connection. Prayer is an important tool that Christians use during Advent’s season of waiting.

Time for reflection

Let’s take a moment to consider what waiting means for each of us. Let’s ask ourselves how we might find something positive and creative in our own experience of waiting.

Ask the students to think of a time when they waited for something or someone. It could be as simple an experience as waiting for a game to load, or it could be a memory of waiting for news about a loved one.

Ask the students whether they recall any emotions that they experienced.

Pause to allow time for thought.

What thoughts did they have at the time?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Do they remember how they felt physically?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Having considered this memory, would the students like to change how they respond to waiting in future?

Pause to allow time for thought.

What can they do while they are waiting that might make the experience less negative?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Some options include using the opportunity to listen to music, taking a moment to enjoy being still or even using the chance to pray for someone.

What would the students need to do for it to feel like the experience has some value?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Finally, how can they change how they think about waiting?

Some options include reminding ourselves of what is in our control and what is outside it, leading us to approach the waiting time as an opportunity for relaxation, rather than an inconvenience. If we do feel irritated, we could take the opportunity to consider what irritation - an inevitable part of life - feels like for us.

So, how can we change how we think about waiting?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
Each day, we face some element of waiting.
The wait may be short and feel insignificant, or it may be longer and hold more significance. Our experience of waiting is affected by many things, including how we regard it and what we do during the wait.
o, we pray that in our waiting times today, we can find ways for the wait to offer space for creativity.
Please help us to find ways to consider waiting in a way that enriches our life.
We pray for people, including ourselves, who find waiting difficult.
We call to mind people waiting for important medical help, life-changing news or a loved one’s return.
In those moments when waiting feels difficult, we pray for comfort and a sense of peace.

Publication date: December 2023   (Vol.25 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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