It is the season of Advent with Christmas only a little more than two weeks from now. It is a time of great expectations. In this frenzied season, I have been thinking about expectations, about family (our theme has been “We Are God’s Family”) and I have been thinking about our attentiveness (or lack of).
These thoughts have been sparked by reading a story the writer Anne Lamott tells in her book about what the Kingdom of God that the birth of Jesus ushers in looks like to her. In the book Stitches Lamott describes a friend whose son was living on the streets. Lamott writes, “This friend’s grown son, David, more or less lived on the streets for thirty years. He had a small place he could call his own, but he chose to live outdoors. I’d known him since he was a child. He looked like Puck, and he still had an innocence in his face, even surrounded by matted hair. I drove him to his grandmother’s funeral in Oakland a few years ago, with his grocery bags of broken electronics, and he bragged about how well he could dine from dumpsters. He was strong from walking all day. He was sweet, smart, aggravating, courtly, alcoholic and mentally ill.”
Lamott says, Over the years, his mother welcomed him home once a week or so, when he had not been drinking, for coffee, or soup, or whatever happened to be on the stove. People would ask David’s mother how he was doing. “Oh about the same,” she would say, or “Nightmarishly. And yourself?” Sometimes love does not look like what you had in mind.
Then one day, David had a seizure and was found half dead. He was taken to the ICU and after a long recovery was moved to the general population in the hospital. That was when his mother lost hope. What would become of him next? She despaired. But eventually David learned how to walk again and speak a little gibberish. But what happened among the people in the community who knew David was a bit like the Kingdom of God. They visited him and surrounded his mother with support. Rides, errands, good ideas, just being there and taking an interest. Somehow their love touched David’s mother so profoundly that she came to see her son through the eyes of the people who loved her and loved him. It changed everything.
Eventually he was placed in a long term facility where people with Alzheimer’s and similar dementia twice David’s age were living. Every two weeks, Lamott writes, David’s mother drives to see her son at his facility in San Francisco. They go for short walks, and they talk about whatever comes up. Sometimes he makes very little sense. It’s a beautiful drive to the facility. Flickering screens of color rush by, dappled patches of road, then such brightness that even dark glasses can’t help. And it’s hard to tell who has been more saved from what, David or David’s mother and the community of love that has transformed them both.
In the Bible passages which are our focus this Sunday, John the Baptist sent word to Jesus from his prison cell, “Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?” And Jesus said, Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
As I move closer to this Sunday and to Christmas, I am being made aware of these important things:
- What you are looking for often determines what you see
- We have the opportunity to be the family of God.
- The kingdom comes, when it comes, in places that we least expect and in ways that are not what we had imagined.
- Love, after all, doesn’t always look like what you had in mind.
I hope in this season of Advent you are discovering richness as well. And I hope to see you this Sunday for worship and our children’s advent workshop that follows the service.