Monthly Archives: December 2016

Some thoughts on Advent hope

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As I watched the sun peek over the rooftops this morning, I thought about a conversation I had with a very close friend last night. We had been sharing with each other about the pain we are experiencing within ourselves and on behalf of those we love, and wondering why certain struggles seem to last SO long.

Both of us have been dwelling deeply in Advent this year, choosing to hold onto the hope that the Light of the world has come, and will come again. But last night we wondered aloud about the nature of this hope, and the joy that it brings. Advent hope feels so different from Easter hope, when our joy springs from Jesus’ resurrection – the wild, death-defying, victorious event on which we peg our faith.

Advent ends in Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of a vulnerable baby, born into a family enveloped by the scandal of his unbelievable conception, who became a refugee when he was barely old enough to walk. Then he grew into a kid who surely learned the hard way the pain of sticking your hand into a flame, turning corners too fast and a host of other things that kids have to figure out. Then he was a teenager, which was probably awkward, and then he became a carpenter, which was probably boring at times. Only after 30 years of life on earth, experiencing what it is to human (with the accompanying joys and sorrows), did Jesus enter his 3 years of public ministry. Then things got harder for him, and he ended up on a cross. (Today’s Old Testament reading from the lectionary happens to be Isaiah 53, which spells out what it meant for Jesus to be a suffering servant.) And THEN he rose from the dead! Alleluia!

So when we sing Christmas carols about joy to the world, peace on earth, silent nights and figgy puddings, the hope is real. But it’s not a quick-fix kind of hope. Oh how I wish it was! But it’s not. That’s why I cling to certain lyrics of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” like a lifeline.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The joy of Advent doesn’t come from the immediate victory over death, but the fact that the Dayspring from on high did, in fact, draw nigh. The Incarnation happened. God chose to be WITH us. In the beauty and the pain. Alleluia.

O come, o come

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It’s been quite a while since I last blogged and, as per usual, lots of beautiful things and lots of hard things have happened.

The camping trip/retreat that I was anticipating in my last post was a delight. The weather was cold but bright, we coexisted harmoniously (with some very minor exceptions), and we had a ton of fun. One Dale retreat first-timer could barely contain his wonder and joy, exclaiming things like “Did you see the lake?!…Did you see my cabin?!… Did you see Mars?!” approximately every 5 minutes 🙂 It was a trip to remember, for all of of us.

Another lovely thing happened a couple of weeks ago, when we witnessed what might be considered a minor miracle! “Tom”, one of the two people that we have ever barred (for a few months) from the Dale was at our Wednesday morning drop in. The community member who usually prepares breakfast was away, so I was getting things organized to start cooking myself. Tom was in a grumpy mood, which isn’t terribly unusual. He started criticizing my methods, implying that he could do it better himself. In exasperation I said, “well then, why don’t you?”… and so he did! He cooked the entire breakfast on his own, hash browns, bacon, scrambled eggs and all. And it was delicious. The hilarious part was that he didn’t want anyone knowing that he had gladly cooked for the group, because it would ruin his “bad reputation”… so he gave us all the credit when people commented on how good it was! Amazing.

These are just a couple of the very sweet things that have happened in the last few months. We’ve also baked Christmas cookies together, gone caroling, and shared many deep and/or hilarious conversations.

Like I said, though, there are some really tough things facing the community as well. As Erinn wrote about last week in her blog post, we are still waiting to hear whether or not the rumors are true that a Dale member has passed away. This friend was/is hilarious, kind and deeply caring. He was/is also the other person that we have barred from the Dale for a few months, because when he drinks he turns into someone we barely recognize who is prone to violence. My dearest hope is that we’ll see this friend around Parkdale again soon, and be able tell him how much we love him… And my fear is that the rumors are true.

A number of other community members are in the hospital, and/or needing to go to court for various reasons. I just came home from visiting a friend in the ICU, who is in a coma. I prayed for him, that he would be soaked in the light of Christ as he lay in his hospital bed. Then I looked up and noticed a crucifix over the lamp above that bed. But unlike on most crucifixes, this Jesus was wearing a robe and had radiant light shining around his head- reminding me more of His ascension than His death.

It occurred to me that this was a beautiful Advent reminder of the pain and hope inherent in His story, and ours. As we ache for the brokenness we see around and within us, we long for Jesus’ coming in glory.

O come, o come Emmanuel!