Tomorrow is the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere. But for those of us on the other side of the world, winter begins with the longest night of the year. Advent comes to a climax in our darkest hour.
I began the Advent season with a confidence that has been repeatedly derailed. (I must confess I haven’t yet said “yes” in capital letters to anyone that asked me if I’m ready for Christmas.) I was ready for moments of wonder and joy–and they have come–but I have also been tripped by feelings of inadequacy and tempted to just “get through it.” I look around and see others struggling to keep their heads above water too. These dark days make me increasingly aware of how broken we all are and how desperately we need God.
Desperation prepares our hearts like nothing else.
Two weeks ago I was having a bowl of soup with “Tom” who has been homeless since spring. Before I could sit down he wanted a hug. In the three years I’ve known this man, he’s never asked me for a hug.
“I was arrested,” he said, “for no good reason. The cops held me for twelve hours. When I asked for my stuff back they said they were keeping it… for evidence.”
“They took everything I owned. I managed to get another backpack and sleeping bag from Progressive Housing and someone gave me these pants, but they were made for a f***ing midget.”
He finished his soup and left before I could find words to comfort him.
In a staff meeting that afternoon we prayed for Tom, but I kept imagining him irritated by Christmas carols, frustrated with an empty-handed God.
Tom returned the following Wednesday. “Look at me,” he said grinning and showing off his fur-lined coat.
“Things went from bad to worse and I didn’t know what to do. I had nothing. Finally I cried out to God, ‘I need clothes. And I know you can provide them.’ Within five minutes I found this! I’m not kidding, five minutes later I received this coat, and these clothes.” He held open his coat so I could see his new shirt, jeans and shoes.
He went on. “I never believed God loved me, but I now know it. I know he loves me,” he said and began to weep. “These are not tears of sadness, but tears of joy. I’m the prodigal son come home. God put a robe around me and shoes on my feet.”
Tom wrapped his fingers around the soft fur with the same wonder Mary felt as she caressed her newborn son and Saviour.
The true light, that gives light to all people, has come into our world. It shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name…”