Dear Henri, Well Met and Startled — Advent Week 1, Day 4

Woman in church

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16)


Dear Henri,

This Advent is a stretch. It seems the rest of the world is already at trees, lights, and baby Jesus in the manger, while I'm still at Zechariah. They weren't kidding when the ancients declared Advent to be a time of waiting. 

I found it hard today to focus on Okoro's Advent reflection. While we're hovering around Zechariah's story, we're moving from lament and darkness — things Elizabeth and Zechariah were well acquainted with their whole married lives — to suddenly being met by a divine stranger.

What did strike me was this:

"It is interesting to note that when God remembers ["re-members"] Zechariah and sends the angel Gabriel to share the good news, Zechariah is where he should be. The angel does not approach Zechariah while he drowns his sorrows with table wine or complains to his neighbors. Rather, Gabriel reveals himself while Zechariah is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Our responsibilities do not stop while we lament, hope, pray, and wait. Who knows how God will meet us when we least expect it in the very place we are meant to be?" (Okoro, p.28).

At first read, I was a little offended. It kind of sounded like Okoro was snubbing those who might turn to table wine or complain to their neighbors. I mean, who hasn't self-medicated, Henri? Alcohol, smokes, sex, food, drugs… whatever numbs the pain right? God doesn't meet us in those places? 

And it's a pretty sure bet we've all complained to someone about our plights. I know what the Bible says about complaining (God appears not to be a fan), but surely there's a difference between lamenting to friends out of grief and plain old whining… isn't there? Even if there isn't, wouldn't God meet us here too?

After reading through Okoro's reflection a couple more times, however, I think I've reached a better sense of what she's trying to say. Life does go on. I might be partner-less and childless, but that doesn't stop the brake pads on the car from going; it doesn't stop my boss expecting me to show up for work everyday; it doesn't stop the need for me to shovel snow off the sidewalks. There are places I need to be, things I need to do, roles I need to play.

Dark nights of the soul have an enthusiastic way of sapping our spirits, don't they though? I might have to work here, volunteer there, be daughter here or auntie there. And yet that darkness seems to infuse itself like a living essence into my cells. I carry the grief in my breath.

But they say that the most courageous thing we could ever do is to show up.

Zechariah showed up.

God showed up.

Two demonstrations of courage in one.

I'm taking my time trying to picture each party's reaction to one another. Sure we assume Gabriel was all self-assured and purposeful in his message. But what if he reacted in some way we aren't privy to? What if the look on Zechariah's face moved him to tears?

I want God to meet me where I am, Henri. Sometimes the courage to show up isn't there — it's all sapped. Maybe there's something divine in that too: hiding away to find more courage to show up another day.

Strange… this collision of grief and hope… splashes of humanity are everywhere, Henri. A great big wounded mess.

Until tomorrow, Henri,


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