Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ironic Advent Meditation #1: The Full Cry of Advent (Waiting for Noel)

Ironic Advent Meditation #1:
The Full Cry of Advent 
(Waiting for Noel)

Advent is waiting, but it means coming or appearance.
Advent is the time of waiting for the appearance or the coming.

Waiting is not static. I know this now, though I theorized it before.
Noel taught me to wait.

The Church season of Advent is a closed system,
helpful as a sign,
but not equal to the actual experience of waiting for the coming or the appearance.
I know this now, though I thought differently before.

Real Advent is open to reality.
Hopeful, hazardous, ironic, surprising, disappointing, sometimes agnostic, a risk.

How long? How long? How long? How long? How long? How long? How g* f* long?
The cry of Advent (and real Advent means much crying),
the moan of those who wait—longing, expecting, doubting, anxious, focused, desperate.

Uttered while gathered, holding hands if possible, around the dying body.
Of a brother who was once a lovely laughing child,
of a people who once knew the presence and the call,
of a church once barefoot, humble, poor, and glorious.

But what kind of utterance?
A moan, a cry, a wail, of course. But also, and always, an address.

How long, O Lord? How long, O LORD?
A desperate gasp? Certainly. An accusation? Probably?

But the full cry of Advent,
open to all who came by way of the womb and ever named their need for milk,
the ground of the wild wager, the paradoxical final stage, perhaps, of ascending from the slime.

How long, O Lord? The full cry of Advent.
Not the “why” of the suffering individual seeking justice and justification,
who knows, before even stating the case, that the only acceptable verdict is “it’s not your fault.”

But the absurd hope, figured from our bed of suffering, our season of darkness, our absolute loneliness and desolation,
That love, and goodness, and kindness, and care—
the words we’ve used for years to make our meanings and find our ways through wilderness,
may point to something more than poetry.

Brother Henry, a chaplain, wanders ICU looking for someone who might still want such unfashionable help. 
Missy goes out and grabs him and says he’s welcome with us.
He reads Psalm 23 so that you wanted to believe it.

He prays for Noel, and then for us. 
We try to wake Noel up so Henry can actually get to meet him. 
We call, “Noel, Noel. Noel, Noel."
Henry stands in the entrance to the “room,” and says, “let me try it this way.”
He sings, beautifully--“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord.” 

I don’t know the song. 
I’m not sure of the message either.  

Noel doesn’t wake. We say goodbye to Henry. 
Again, we begin to stroke and kiss and whisper to our dying brother.
And wait.


  1. Thank you for sharing this very personal piece. I especially love:...But the absurd hope, figured from our bed of suffering, our season of darkness...
    I've gone on a crying jag.

  2. Never connected the idea of Advent with the cry of How long O Lord? Something so obvious and I missed it.

  3. "Real Advent is open to reality."

    Amen. I shared this with one of my pastors via Facebook.