Advent Reflection: Second Week

10 December 2007

This past Saturday, we opened up our home to someone who needed it.  Now, this was not as radical and important as sheltering the homeless or the stranger, but I feel it was very good thing to do.

As one might imagine,  the weekends are the only time that Beth, the Little Guy, and I can really spend quietly at home.  I teach Monday and Wednesday nights, we have (lately) have someone coming over on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, and often one or more weekend nights have something going on with them.  So it was last week: typical teaching schedule, I was sick Tuesday night, Thursday night (if I remember correctly) was quiet, but we had wonderful guests on Friday, and we lit the Advent candles at Reconciler on Sunday night.  While we were invited to a holiday/house-warming on Saturday night, that was something that was a late-ish affair that only one of us was going to and probably not to stay very long.

Suffice it to say, Saturday was going to be the harbor of a quiet evening, a little take-out, a bottle of wine.  A good friend of ours, new to the Chicagoland area, called early Saturday.  She had moved to a near south suburb to work as a librarian there.  She knows a few people who either live in Chicago or are frequently back, but they mostly orbit the Far North Side.  Although it might not seem so, the near south suburbs and the Far North Side are not very close, about an hour-plus drive each way.

Our friend was calling for company.  Far from family and friends, she found herself living in a working class suburb without coffeeshops or the related bohemian institutions.  Her life, thus far, has often been in the orbit of academic institutions, and so her writing and intellectual life has always had a community nearby.  Not so now.

So she spent sometime at a local coffeeshop and came by for dinner.  We had dinner, set up the Christmas tree, and lit Chanukah candles (our friend is Jewish).  She has, she told us, lately become more interested in her Jewishness, even joining a Reform temple and buying a menorah.  I don’t doubt that it was somewhat lonely lighting those candles by herself, and while the growing lights —1, 2, 3, 4 by the previous night— might be cheerful, her own loneliness might have been starkly in contrast to her menorah’s flickering gleam.

On the fifth night of Chanukah, we stood as she lit the lights, recited the blessing, and celebrated her people’s holiday of blessed provision.  We were able to welcome her in and help her cope with this “most wonderful time of the year” when, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise, we sometimes have to really struggle with how we feel and how we “ought” to feel.

*    *    *    *    *

Some of my Advent resolutions have not been going well.  While I am satisfied with them, I have not begun a service habit, some kind of volunteering, as I had hoped.  The ambition of my Lenten/Advent resolutions often help me get some perspective on my life.  The Lent/Advent I plan is rarely the Lent/Advent I get, and this is a great blessing.

Beth and I have discussed volunteering at All Saints’ food pantry/community meal whenever I am free from evening classes.  This would mean about  15 Tuesdays a year, give or take, which would be the equivalent of a more-than-monthly commitment, which is what I wanted.

And this is what I love about Advent: I resolve to do one thing, and God, through God’s blessed provision, gives me the perspective and help to do something else, something very different, closer to what I wanted to do all along.


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