Advent 1 Year C
December 2, 2018
The plan, this Thanksgiving, was for our family to travel to Malaga, Spain to visit our son Patrick, who has been spending his junior year abroad there. We made reservations for our flights and our lodging months ago, but more recently, one of my doctors strongly urged me not to make the trip.
As you probably know, I receive my nutrition intravenously – which is a very delicate and precise process – and the doctor knew that one small hiccup in that process could cause a serious medical emergency.
Of course, I was crushed by the thought of not being able to go, but I turned lemons into lemonade as I began to imagine 8 whole, solitary days at home; just me, our dog, Chelsea, a stack of books and the TV remote control. Not perfect, but still a vacation of sorts.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for these plans to come crashing down too. Just two days after the family left, I woke up with a fever. By that evening, it had spiked to over 103, and because of the risk of my central line, which leads directly to my heart, I needed to get to the Emergency Room as soon as possible.
I was as disappointed as I was sick. I had to scramble to find care for Cheslea, abandon my spot on the couch and relinquish the remote control. All while my family was over 3,000 miles away. It felt like the worst of all worlds: I was not in Spain on a fabulous family vacation, nor was I at home, enjoying some much needed R&R. Instead, I was stuck in the hospital with an infection, where waiting – both for diagnosing and treating the infection - was the name of the game. Day after day. Night after night.
Waiting has never been my strong suit. Whether it’s in the hospital, or on-line at the DMV, or stuck in traffic. It’s not just that I’m impatient, but rather, the act of waiting means I am not in control.
And yet that’s the very picture Jesus paints for us in today’s Gospel reading. ‘Nations will be confused; people will faint from fear and foreboding; that day is surely coming, yet no one knows when.’ Wait. Watch. Be aware. Don’t think, even for a moment, that you are in control, Jesus is saying.
It’s a spiritual discipline, this waiting for God. And this season of Advent is most certainly the time to tune into the discomfort of that waiting. You see, in Advent we’re waiting for Jesus to come into this world, as a baby – as God with us – at Christmas, and simultaneously, we are waiting for Jesus’ kingdom to be fulfilled, for Love to be made manifest in every heart and corner of the world. So, yes, we are waiting, and no, we are not in control.
But this Thanksgiving, I discovered that Advent is also the season to recognize and receive the bold blessings that take place as we watch and wait.
You see, Thanksgiving Day ended up being that time of bold blessing for me. Yes, I was still in the hospital, waiting for blood culture results and word from the doctors on my condition. I expected to be disappointed, lonely, and grieving for all that I was missing out on for the holiday. But throughout the day, I kept asking myself, “How can this be?” Because, instead, I experienced the exact opposite. I had a profound sense of contentment and gratefulness. No, I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but the nurses, doctors and aides were all there too, and they weren’t bitter, but joyous. I enjoyed surprise visits from some amazing people who cared enough to give up some of their holiday time to sit and pray with me. And thanks to technology, I even got to sit with my family in Spain at their Thanksgiving table, to laugh and enjoy their company from afar. It made no sense to me at all, but into the chaos and uncertainty of my waiting, God showed up, and met me in that place.
This Advent-God, the God of revelation, restoration, and even the God of our waiting, meets us right here and right now. And to my surprise, when we meet with this God of waiting – we uncover a river of Hope. How glorious it is that I am not in control!? How wonderful is it that my hope doesn’t depend just on me, or my circumstances? As we wait for the fulfillment of Jesus’ kingdom, God’s promises are what makes our hope very real.
Yes, today, even as we consider our financial pledge to St. Paul’s for next year. We may not feel perfectly prepared, or ‘in control’ of our finances. But Jesus meets us in those places of uncertainty and waiting, and asks nothing more of us than to simply open ourselves up to receive the bold blessing of hope that is constantly being born into our lives.
‘Lift up your heads,’ Jesus says, ‘hope comes from me.’ What a blessing that hope is. That was my gift this Thanksgiving, and it is the gift for all of us today. Even our children will receive this gift of hope during this season from our Advent angel who is hiding somewhere in this sanctuary - because that’s what angels do in Advent, they offer words of hope. My prayer is that we can all tune into and experience the gift of God’s hope this season. And when we ask ourselves, “How can this be?” we know the answer. Our hope is in God. And then, like any good gift, may we share that hope with one another, and with the world. Amen.