I’ve been enjoying two different online devotions this Advent season, one lifting up non-traditional music and reflections on the darker realities we face as we wait in hope, and one in a more traditional format. On the first day of Advent, I was struck by the question: do we really know what we’re preparing for? Are we really living in anticipation and deep longing for some new thing that we trust God is about to do?
The Presbyterian churches here in Bolivia aren’t much accustomed to celebrating Advent, so it’s been fun to share this season that is so rich in meaning with the Manantial de Vida congregation in Río Seco where I’ve been assisting these past few months. This past Sunday, when I offered the benediction at the end of the service, several of the women came forward and wept as they knelt to pray. Clearly there is a deep need to sing songs of healing and redemption in this community.
I am just beginning to know the pain and the hope of the church members–longing for children young and old to live their lives in the light of God’s love; worry caused by separation from husbands who have traveled to other regions to obtain work; hope for reconciliation with friends; loneliness and illness. My own life has been so sheltered from great tragedy and pain, and yet the struggles of friends somehow shape my life, too. We are indeed one body in Christ. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). Or as Mayra Rivera puts it, “In her relations to Others, a person’s boundaries extend in-finitely.”
Life in La Paz has been stretching me, in directions that are exhilarating and sometimes uncomfortable. As I ride the minivan buses alongside drunks, students, old women carrying heavy bundles, and mothers with smiling or crying babies, I wonder what God has in store for this place, these people, and what it really means for me to be part of one body with them. This Advent season I have a deep feeling of hope and excitement, but I’m not sure what it is that I’m expecting. I’m often so focused inward, on my own hurries, stresses, tasks. Am I missing the light?
“The dawn from on high has broken upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79). That is a beautiful promise, the path of the already/not-yet of God’s creation community. We live in the in-between time, waiting for the fullness of God’s promised peace, for the time when we will see face to face. So for now I say with the poet, “I won’t await you only waiting, for my waiting time is a things-to-do time.”
Today I say a loud “Amen” to this prayer:
Lord, I cannot wait,
For days without tears,
For days with enough food for all,
For days of radical hospitality,
For days when love is freely offered and warmly received.
Lord, I cannot wait, so until that day:
Give me grace to comfort others,
Give me courage to seek justice,
Give me opportunity to serve another,
And take away my fears so I live in your unconditional love.