Becca J.R. Lachman is a writer, educator, and auntie living in Athens, Ohio, with her husband Michael, a professional musician turned public-transit manager and a former reservist with CPT Colombia. Becca’s creative work includes two collections of poetry (Other Acreage and The Apple Speaks), the anthology A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (ed.), choral music available from Heritage Press, and four original musicals. Since 2011, she’s led storytelling and poetry-writing workshops for groups of intergenerational women, veterans and college students. She is a member of Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church and holds an MFA from Bennington (Vermont) College.
A reflection on Isaiah 11:1-9.
Nearly halfway through another Advent season, the world holds its breath—again—for the Son of God to make a miraculous reappearance. Waiting for this God-gift is an ancient and sacred ritual for Christians around the world, one that ends with great awe and celebration.
But I write this post for those among us whose Advent wait may feel especially heavy or hollow this year, tinged with pain or even forced:
For the missionary couple continents away from the love and comforts of home for the first time.
For the woman who feels like she’s the last on earth not to have a baby and who has to hear the story of Elizabeth and Mary on repeat this time of year.
For the sons and daughters leaning into their dark night of the soul, unable to get out of bed some days, hoping tomorrow will be different.
For the spouses whose grieving over the death of a beloved is as fresh as a daily bruise.
For the homesick MVS-er whose other housemates get to travel back to their families at Christmas.
For the aging grandfather who aches for real connection and a renewed sense of purpose in his community.
For the siblings who want to call each other, but the old grudges and wounds stand in the way.
For the young combat veteran trying to carry his PTSD on his own.
For the son or daughter not sure they would be fully welcomed into their childhood congregation, perhaps because of the questions they have about their faith or because of the person they love.
For the burnt-out pastor who can’t sleep.
For the family living paycheck-to-paycheck.
This list could wrap around the globe—and does. And while the international and national news stories we are hearing and living out today affect us all, calling out for our Advent-love-in-action, I find it is often the stories of those around us, those friends/co-workers/neighbors/students who might be waiting desperately for God’s voice or nudge, that we sometimes look past or even ignore.
The passage from Isaiah today weaves together a world hard (impossible?) for most of us to imagine—and yet…
Jesus is our “and yet,” and though sometimes we cannot hold hope in our own hearts, Jesus holds it for us. Sometimes when we don’t know the words to pray, the Holy Spirit sends whole sentences into the heavens. And although we practice the ritual of waiting for and welcoming God in human form each year, I also like to think about God waiting for us. Always.
Along with God’s children, God is also waiting on that world where “the wolf will romp with the lamb,” and where we all are wearing our “sturdy work clothes and boots” to build such a community, one where “neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on [God’s] holy mountain.”
In my opinion, being faithful and righteous like the verses describe does not always mean we have to be joyful or even grateful all of the time. But I know I stumble after a God who waits for me, no matter how stubborn or silent or hurt I may be.
During Advent, we get to be “God with us” to those around us. And we remind ourselves that Jesus will, once again, not be the military general or the opulent ruler so many expect, even, it seems, today.
We wait, but we also take action as God’s children. May we remember that we are all descendants of that “green shoot” and that “budding branch,” and that Advent is a season when we can rest in the mysterious peace that God also waits for us.
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