It's Advent. The Sunday morning lectionary texts will not allow me to forget the mystery and wonder of this season. My preaching preparation has pushed me to reflect often on how we are called to be prepared. We have sung "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and I have dreamed of a white Christmas.
It's Advent and while I have already journeyed two weeks into the season in a way far more different than what I originally planned, I cannot help but to be filled with hope. I cannot help but to sense God's presence gently nudging me to expect something different with hopeful anticipation. I can feel a new reality on the horizon.
A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues was sharing with me how we might need to spend more time talking to God about what we don't want to talk to God about - that if we are actually expecting God to do something different then we should address the issues with God that we have somehow concluded were too far out of control to be fixed or too far lost to be found. I've been thinking about this suggestion often during this season of hope - asking God to provide hope in situations that I have found to be hopeless. I have been thinking about what it would mean to pray for and work towards a completely differently reality. Rather than avoiding the conversation on big issues, I have been thinking about how to address them with God.
So often I get exhausted by the needs around me. I look at all the people sleeping in or on top of cardboard boxes in the city and I wonder if there will ever come a day when every person has a bed on which to sleep and a place to call home. I have grown cynical in the process, treating the issue of homelessness as if it is just a part of reality that we can always expect in the city. And then the congregation I serve shows me how if we help even one person it is making a difference. I watched as our congregation accepted a responsibility to provide a place to sleep for a week or two at a time to a couple of men who have been sleeping on our porch for almost two years. The family who first welcomed them to theirhome is celebrating their first child's second birthday tomorrow and waiting for the birth of their second child to happen at any time. "Are you kidding me?" I ask as I learn about what is happening - about this family opening their hearts and their doors. Perhaps we can really work towards an end to homelessness. Perhaps we can have the audacity to pray for God to help us end homelessness, trusting that God will grant us wisdom and courage to play our part in the process.
When I drive downtown around the hour of 7:00 each morning, two things happen. 1) I want to cry when I see different girls and women who I know have been out all night, victims of sex-trafficking. 2) I want to literally run my car into the pimps that I see standing on the street corners or driving in their fancy cars with tinted windows. Prostitution is just something we have to accept in the city, many people say. It's just the way it is - the oldest job in the world. But I have watched as one of our building partners has done extraordinary work in seeking to get girls off the streets - out of the place of being a victim and into the place of being a survivor. I watched yesterday as many members of our church returned gifts for a victim of sex-trafficking and her sister. The generosity pouring through the doors was extraordinary. Perhaps we can work to end sex-trafficking. Perhaps we can have the audacity to pray for God to help us in this task.
God, there are so many things that seem too big for anyone to master. I have no idea how to end homelessness - how to get everyone on board to make the changes needed for all to have a place to call home. I lose hope when I hear of another person who has been diagnosed with cancer or when I see someone who is struggling with mental illness. I feel like I am facing an uphill battle when it comes to getting the discipline needed to live a healthier life and take better care of my body. I become so overwhelmed at times when I think about how far under water my husband and I are on our homes and how we may be living in a one-bedroom apartment the rest of our lives - how it may take a decade before we are finally able to sell these places. I lose heart when I think of world hunger or ending peace or getting people off our porch at night. God, there are so many needs around me. Help me, Lord. Help me to trust you. Help me to cast my worries upon you because you care for me. Show me what changes I can make. Teach me how to make a difference. Increase my faith! Help me, Lord. It's Advent, and I am waiting for you to come again but in the meantime, I long to do what I can to be a sign of your kingdom on earth. Let me not avoid the conversation or shy away from the work that needs to be done. Amen.