I imagine you’ve had this experience: You make a plan and then watch it fall apart. That happened to me this week. I had my Advent blog series all planned out. I started with this idea of writing about Jesus’ challenging messages, and posted for two weeks on that. Then I took a book launch break last week, which made good sense, and figured I’d extend the series into Christmastide. But then, it just didn’t feel right to write the next post in the series. After some time in prayer and waiting, I realized that I needed to write about something else: waiting with the unknown.
Advent is traditionally a season of waiting. We wait with expectation, looking forward to the birth of Jesus and also anticipating Christ’s future appearance. Our culture leaps ahead of us into Christmas, while we do our best to wait and watch—to remember the uncertainty and the unknown that Mary and Joseph faced, and all the faithful face, at one time or another.
A number of “unknown” moments have illuminated Advent for me in the past week. I was asked to write a meditation for St. Philip’s Daily Bread series during Christmastide, and my initial idea just wasn’t working out, so I chose to set it aside to percolate. I had this nudge to send a trio of Melanie Weidner’s Brave Joy art cards to a long-term friend, so I got them in the mail. I had a handful of conversations with people who are, in various ways, waiting and longing for the coming of Christ.
Then, the day before my package was due to arrive at my friend’s house, I got word from her that she had fallen and broken her right femur in multiple places. She has a long road toward healing ahead, and the art cards and accompanying reflection questions will likely prove to be helpful companions on the journey. (Please say a prayer for her if you feel so inclined!)
Then, when I returned to the scripture passages assigned to me for the Daily Bread meditation, a completely different idea came to mind and I knew exactly what to write (thank you, Spirit!).
Then, I listened to a video update from the pastor I mentioned a few months ago, who is battling cancer (and whose wife is also battling cancer; your prayers for Jim and Pati are welcome too). It’s not been an easy road for them and he is finding himself learning at a deeper level about letting go of control and living into trust. Both of them have been waiting through an Advent, and for a 2021, that are wholly unknown.
That’s also true for all of us. At this point a year ago, there was no way we could have imagined how 2020 would turn out! Change might come suddenly, through a broken bone or a cancer diagnosis. It also might come slowly, as a virus spreads, or our bodies age and our minds forget, or as our culture changes and we struggle to adapt. In that deep sense, we are all waiting. The future is always unknown.
Fortunately, God is with us, in Christ and through the Spirit. We are never alone on the journey. We just need to remember.
As we are waiting in these last days until Christmas, may you find ways to let go of control, live into trust, and accept the unknown.