Advent is the first season of the liturgical calendar. Coming immediately after Christ the King Sunday and tucked away between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is often overlooked in the holiday rush.
But if we slow down and take a breath, we can see that Advent is a season pregnant with hope.
Everyday, we see hope blossom out of despair.
A couple of months ago as our maintenance man arrived at 5 a.m. he found a young man sleeping on our steps. He had been recently released from prison. I learned that he had grown up in our congregation, Cross Lutheran Church, Milwaukee.
When he got out of jail, he could not go home. His family was not amenable to taking him in. He came to the place that had welcomed him as a child of God. He was baptized and confirmed at Cross. Some of the adults remembered him as one of the children they had in Sunday school.
He began to show up for worship each Sunday. He was welcomed into our Bread of Healing ministry on Wednesdays where we knew he would get a good wholesome meal and where he would be respected, loved and honored as the child of God that he was.
But he was still homeless and that bothered me and all of us who were concerned about his safety and well-being as the temperatures would begin to turn colder. We prayed for this young man. We prayed with him. We sought to find places that would take him in to no avail, mostly because he was uncooperative.
He made his home right underneath my office window.
As he arrived for work each day, our maintenance man found this young man camped on our steps covered with a blanket and dressed in several layers of clothing.
He felt safe.
He remembered the unconditional love that he found in the congregation when he was a child.
It drew him like the young son in that great story in Luke’s Gospel.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I sat across from this young man as we enjoyed a good meal.
I told him: “All of us here love you.”
“We want you to be safe.”
“We want you to take care of yourself.”
He answered, “I know, pastor.”
I saw him in Bible study a few minutes later. At the end of the study a woman had asked if she could bless the community with a song. She sang, “God has been good to me and I just want to thank him.”
I went back to my office thinking about this young man and within a few moments the parish nurse came rushing back. I could hear the excitement in her voice as she could barely get the words out, “Pastor, the woman who just sang recognized Michael (not his real name) as her cousin and she is going to take him home to be with her family.”
Advent hope comes when we can’t see our way, when it looks as if every avenue has been exhausted.
“I will look to the hills,” the psalmist says. “From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord.”