Waiting with Love
Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year A
December 23, 2007
Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year A
December 23, 2007
Let us pray: God of all time and space, we rejoice in your abundant love. Open our hearts to celebrate your gift of Jesus. Bless us with patience and vision, faithfulness and courage as we follow your Christ. Amen.
Joel took a pause from his travel preparations and collapsed into the sofa. If you can call a little office party that had occupied Friday afternoon “work”, then he had worked right up until 5:00 pm on Friday. Saturday had been occupied with all the last minute shopping and busyness that always seemed to happen a day or two before Christmas. He was scheduled for an early morning flight on Christmas Eve. The Love family would be together again for Christmas this year - the first time this had happened in several years. His two older sisters with their growing families had spent alternate Christmases with their in-laws, so while he had seen some of his nephews and nieces over the previous Christmas seasons, it was a long time since they had all been together in one place at the same time. He was anticipating it highly. He loved being an uncle, and he had spent far too much money on gifts for all of the nieces and nephews. That bit of regret and a much bigger regret were the thoughts that had propelled him into the sofa, as he broke from trying to pack all those gifts, along with others for the rest of his family and enough clothes for a week away. This time of year always precipitated a mixture of emotions for Joel. He wanted to be the doting uncle, but his heart also ached at how commercial the season was. He longed to find a way to show his love without buying into the hype and commerce. However, it was a much greater longing that supplanted these thoughts right now. Thirty-something Joel was still alone, and his heart ached with the hope not to be that way. The irony that his surname was Love and yet he hadn’t found it was a constant irritant to him.
It’s not that he hadn’t tried. Online dating services, singles club outings, and hopeful introductions to the single friends of married co-workers had all carried a certain amount of promise, but so far nothing lasting and certainly nothing with the promise of permanence. He sadly joked that his middle name was “unlucky in” so that he could introduce himself as Joel Unlucky In Love.
As a practising Christian, Joel attended worship on most Sundays, but he found the season of Advent a bittersweet experience. All that talk of waiting and anticipation was a bit too much for him. He was good at waiting - at least he thought he was good at waiting - he had done enough of it, but then again there were times when he thought he was not good at waiting at all. He was far too impatient and far too uncomfortable with accepting things as they are without wanting them to be some other way, to be good at waiting. He’d heard the expression “let go and let God” many times and had really tried to encompass that mood with his life, but the yearnings were too strong for him to really let go.
As he continued his angst laden reverie on the sofa, his thoughts turned to Joseph - that role model for the new age man - at least that’s how he thought about Joseph. There really was not much known about this servant of God, except that he seemed the very model of the sensitive male that fit the biblical mould for other such men. Joel had always delighted at how many of the bible stories - from both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures - cast men in rather atypical roles. It was a sad irony that the church had grown into such a patriarchal institution when the men of the STORY were so often not the biggest, brawniest or oldest. They were often depicted as the weaker also-rans until God surprised everyone by choosing them instead of the expected candidates. Joel took great hope from these stories, as he often saw himself as someone who came out of the same mould. It was inspiring and consoling to think this way. It continually prompted him to be reminded to let go and let God, something that was far easier to do when thinking about others than for himself. It was always easier to accept something in theory or in the abstract or about someone else than it was to accept it for oneself.
Slowly, Joel became aware of his surroundings as his thoughts turned to the present moment. There was still packing to be done. The seasonal music coming from his CD player had changed from the bluesy number that was in part responsible for his trip to the sofa. Now it was something a bit more upbeat, providing him some incentive to pack away the thoughts that had occupied him for the past little while so that he could pack away the items that still remained from the heap on his bed. He uttered a deep sigh, that sadly, he mused, only he could hear, and sent his concerns to the deep place inside where they continued to reside. They would come back, he knew - perhaps on the plane trip home, but right now, the feelings of anticipation and excitement were overtaking the longing and loneliness. Worship that morning had confirmed the bittersweet emotions that he associated with advent. The excitement being felt by the children in the congregation was palpable and infectious. However, he had also heard some of the twenty and thirty-somethings during the fellowship time making alternate plans for Christmas together because they were not able to travel home. It was good they were getting together, but he could also hear the disappointment among some of them that they were not going to see their loved ones. It was disappointment with which he could identify, although inversely. He loved the fact that everyone in the Love family was going to be home this year, but he also wondered if some new and different connections might happen if he had stayed around here and joined the other young people in some of the alternate Christmas plans. Why did life have to be such a mixture of good and bad, excitement and regret? Almost like an MP3 player, his mind’s eye hit reverse, backing up from the fellowship time to the scripture readings from this morning. Isaiah was telling Ahaz to ask for a sign from God and as the version the reader was using had put it - ask anything, be extravagant, ask for the moon! Was it possible that like Ahaz, Joel was too limited in his requests for a sign - was he not being demanding enough, rather than too much, as he always assumed? The gospel reading was about Joseph, and once again he was filled with all the emotions that seemed to be a little understood aspect of that first Christmas. The fear of Mary - young and pregnant. The risk that Joseph took in his offer of marriage. Both of them in a big and unfamiliar town, and in that town, in the very worst of birthing rooms. The frightened shepherds and their perhaps even panicky quest to find out what was going on. You know, despite what we’ve made of it, the first Christmas wasn’t too far from describing some of the same things Joel was feeling. There was huge comfort in that for him, and the thought of it during worship and again now as he reflected on worship, was a big message. Let go and let God he reminded himself again. Let go and let God. Okay, I get it - again. Okay, God I get it.
Joel grabbed the carry-on suitcase, eyed the remaining items and did a quick calculation on whether it would all fit. Let go and let God - it was like a mantra for him as the last items went in, and with a little elbow grease making the final push, the zipper closed. Only some of his plans were laid out before him. Let go and let God for the rest. Advent was coming to an end, but was his waiting over. Let go and let God. Amen.