My phone vibrates and I resist looking. I’m in a prayer meeting and it seems disrespectful to check my phone while praying. Within a matter of seconds it vibrates again. This time I give in and look. The text on the screen brings shock and horror. I can’t believe what it says and I have no idea how to react. It reads, “Orlin died today. They think it was heart failure.”
This was entirely unexpected. Orlin was a middle school boy who I worked with at a nearby after school program. Just a few weeks prior I had seen Orlin and he seemed in perfect health. What I didn’t know, nor Orlin and his family, was that he suffered from an enlarged heart. In the last few weeks and months of his life his heart was overworking to the point of literally shutting down. And on that morning on his way to school, it did. Orlin was an eighth grade boy who loved life and who had much of it left to live.
As I sat reading those nine words on my phone, a collision of anger, sorrow, confusion and grief invaded my soul. It was Dec. 6, 2012.
* * *
I’m sitting at a Starbucks with my laptop open before me catching up on emails and other things for work. The coffee shop is a buzz with activity. The line of people ordering drinks is just about out the door. Baristas are calling to one another, “I need a grande non-fat latte with an extra shot.”
Different types of meetings are happening all around me. Business associates talking about their next deal. Community members organizing the up coming youth baseball season. And friends just enjoying each others company. While leaning back from my work and scanning the room, my phone on the table vibrates. I pick it up and the text on the screen reads, “Jesus came today to take Chip home. It was peaceful and beautiful. He’s now home.”
Chip had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. Over the summer there was hope that he might beat it. But as the fall moved along it became clear that he was nearing the end. Even though I knew this was coming, my heart broke thinking about the new reality for his wife and son who had been left behind.
The day Chip was taken home was Dec. 6, 2011.
We had made the 16 hour road trip from Atlanta to LaCrosse, WI. Family members from all over the midwest were coming into town for the big Fisher family Christmas gathering. We were all converging in the hotel where everyone was staying. As I walked into the hotel, I saw on the lobby tv screens news reports about another school shooting.
At first I was distressed and angry to hear about yet another school shooting. But then my distress changed to shock and horror to hear it was an elementary school and the victims were ages 6-7.
The school was Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The date was Friday Dec. 14, 2012.
During the season of Advent, as the people of God, we look back and we look forward. We look back reminding ourselves of the story of Jesus’ birth, the entrance of God into our world. We also look forward awaiting the day when Christ will return. Currently we live in the “in between,” the space and time between Christ’s first coming and his second.
However, my question is, do we really long for the day when Christ will come again? Many of us (myself included) at times, see the return of Christ as an inconvenience. There are things we still want to do in this life, things we have yet to see and experience. And Christ’s return is viewed as a hinderance to my life experiences.
During the last few years at Advent, I have seen a change in my own heart. Having a front row seat to the grief, pain, brokenness, suffering and death of our world, my heart often says, “Lord Jesus, Come!“
When facing the severity of these situations, we often feel helpless to do anything. And even though we can’t fix it, Advent reminds us to have hope. Advent reminds us that death and destruction don’t have the last word. Advent reminds us that at His second coming, Jesus will restore everything that has been broken. Advent leads us to say, “Lord Jesus, Come!”
Where are you facing and seeing hardship this Advent season?
How great is your longing for Christ to return?