Getting through Advent

November 30, 2010

Time
to do the Advent thing, I thought last Saturday night as my husband and I
prepared to study the Annunciation passage with an adult ed class. My mind went
to the hope that I'd be able to get away for a day or two this Advent season and
do some hiking, reflection and prayer at a retreat center. My husband thought
of the teen parents who use our church for a social services class--he wanted
to propose that members of the adult class prepare a Christmas party for the
teens.

But,
as often happens in this class, our discussion of Advent had little to do with our
lesson plans. The teaching-and the learning-came from the class.

The
question, "What do you want to have happen this Advent?" brought out these
comments:

"I
lost both my mom and my sister this year," Jane said softly. "I don't like
thinking about it."

"My
father-in-law just lost his foot to diabetes," said Bill.

We
had walked through the last years of Laura's struggle to keep her alcoholic son
Joe alive; then we'd kept her company at his funeral. "I'm worried about Joe's
wife Anne," she said, referring to her daughter-in-law. "She's an alcoholic
too, and she's not handling his death well."

Although
he did not speak, we knew that Merv's mother-in-law had just been diagnosed
with pervasive cancer, and that his father was on oxygen support.

And
then this came from Marilyn: "My husband and I are divorcing. Christmas is up
for grabs. How do we celebrate any of it?"

There
were two suggestions. Sarah turned to Marilyn and said that, since both husband
and wife are Christians, they must make the effort to be in worship together
with their young son. Then Heidi delievered the punch: she added that maybe we
should all just "keep coming" to worship; that is, we should all move through
Advent together, aim to survive the grotesque giddiness that is secular
Christmas, and wait together for Easter.