Normally when I write an article for the Glebe Report on behalf of my church I try to keep it somewhat “light” and happy. My apologies, for as we approach this, “the most wonderful time of the year,” I am struck and sort of stuck. The week of my writing this marks the third anniversary of an event that had a profound effect on me – and many others. Three years ago a teenager who was connected with the congregation I was pastoring at the time attempted suicide. No one saw it coming.
We prayed. When I first got to the hospital I was ushered into the intensive care unit where I was left alone with the unresponsive teen while the family was rounded up. I prayed. The family came in. I prayed again. Pastors from another local church very quickly organised a prayer vigil for family and friends. They prayed. And we prayed. Our church family prayed like we never prayed before. I can’t explain prayer; sometimes all I can do is pray.
We waited. We hoped. We doubted. The family was faced with a terrible prognosis and uncomfortable decisions. I was prepared to either celebrate a miracle or preside over a funeral. Christmas came. The call to conduct a funeral never did. As we entered the New Year, the teenager not only regained consciousness, but also, eventually, the ability to function fully. People who formerly believed in God but not in miracles began to really believe in God, and even in miracles. Prayer was answered. The wait was worth it. Hope was real. Our doubts were real too, but they were replaced with faith that is real.
The Christmas story has a dark side, and often our own Christmas stories have a dark side. Part of the story that often gets glossed over is Herod and how he ordered the death of young children in an attempt to be rid of Jesus. Herod’s fear did not take a break at the first Christmas. And today, disease does not take a break for Christmas. Grief does not take a break for Christmas. Poverty does not take a break for Christmas. Depression does not take a break for Christmas. Addictions do not take a break for Christmas. But it is not yet Christmas. This is the season of Advent. We pray. We wait. We hope. Sometimes we will doubt. But someday we will really believe in God. Prayer will be answered. The wait will be worth it. We will discover that the hope was real. Our remaining doubts will be replaced with faith, real faith, in a true story of God’s love. Come, Lord Jesus!
As one of the pastors ministering in the Glebe I encourage you to join with one of our church families this Advent season as we pray, wait, hope, and yes sometimes even doubt during this, the “most wonderful time of the year.”
(written for the Glebe Report, Dec. 2009)