Third Sunday of Advent

I’ve been talking for weeks about how Advent is my favorite period on the church calendar, and I’ve tried to write this post three times already, but I think it’s been missing something. In previous drafts I tried to wax poetic about the angst and the is-he-coming-or-isn’t-he-coming.

In one draft I started imagining Advent the way Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly described “looking for help from on high:” “A long wait for a train don’t come,” with a dash of Waiting for Godot.

My second and third drafts were also about waiting and hoping. My third, especially, was about all those people who waited for Jesus – not just the shepherds for him to grow up, not just for the 400 years between the last book of the Old Testament, but all the way back to Isaiah and Amos and Micah, and even back to David and Abraham and Eve who was promised that her seed would bruise the serpent’s head. I wrote about how all these died in faith without receiving what was promised.

I waxed grand and somber about how in so many ways we’re just like they are – and how even though we have Jesus, we’re still waiting with heavy hearts for all that business about swords being hammered into plowshares.

I concluded with some semi-hopeful blabbering, something to the tune of

But if we do not receive the promises, may our lives still reflect the hope of the promise, and become little colonies of the promise. May we live in faith, and may we die in faith, and, and may we rise to life eternal and the advent of the promise at last.

And it was all very angsty and doubtful and it felt honest… but it wasn’t right. I could not have told you why, but it wasn’t.

Then I saw a post on Facebook.

MEANWHILE, IN CANADA: Syrian refugees arriving. Airport is worried they will be overwhelmed by well-wishers.—Neville Park via Twitter (@neville_park)

Posted by Bryan Berghoef on Friday, December 11, 2015

Syrian refugees?

Overwhelmed by well-wishers?

Could it be?

In this old world where love and hope hold on for dear life, barely able to scrape out a breath through the chokehold of despair and hatred and fear?

I googled the story.

I found this one, on, a Toronto newspaper.

I got to the words of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“You are home,” Trudeau said. “Welcome home.”

And that’s when I lost it.

I went back to the beginning and started reading again.

“They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada with social insurance numbers, with health cards and with an opportunity to become full Canadians,” Trudeau said just prior to the plane’s arrival.

This tweet appeared midway down.

These college kids drove almost an hour to go to the airport, meet people they didn’t even know, and give them gift cards for an iconic Canadian restaurant.

I don’t even remember where I was in the story when all of a sudden it hit me.

Advent is real.

Somewhere between the tears and the incredible beautiful human moments where the Prime Minister of Canada greeted refugees getting off a plane and told them they were home, and college kids giving them Tim Horton’s gift cards, I believed. I had no choice. My cynicism about America and American exceptionalism were forgotten, if just for that evening, in tears of joy for the beauty of what I had read in an online newspaper about the extravagant welcome and generosity of our great snowy neighbor to the north.

When I told Kristen about the story later, I started tearing up again. She thought it was cute.

Of course the inevitable “let them go to Canada so they don’t cause trouble here” comment came eventually, but it was too late. Of course I found out later that only 1% of people who apply for refugee status are even considered, but it was too late. Hope had crept in.

And two days later, it was the third Sunday of Advent, and my mainline friends are laughing because you already know what the third Sunday of Advent is.

It’s Joy.

Because of course it is.

About David M. Schell






4 responses to “Third Sunday of Advent”

  1. Steph Avatar

    And in reading this, I’ve realized what has been missing in Advent for me this year – that sense of longing, of expectation, of needing and waiting. Too much planning and too much certainty and not enough reflecting on how hope clings on for dear life and against all odds. Thank you for reminding me about the prophets, the ones who didn’t make it, the ones who hope anyway. It makes the joy, the love, the moment when you receive the gift that much deeper.

    As a side note, I’m Canadian and tomorrow start training to work with the refugees that will be coming to my city. I am so excited and anxious and in tears when I read the news. And now I get to connect that to Advent in a way that is so obvious I can’t believe I missed it.

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      I’m jealous. 🙂

  2. […] I read this post and suddenly my heart swelled and tears were in my eyes and I understand it more. It’s not […]

  3. […]  David Schell wrote about how the angst of Advent was transformed into joy when he heard about the warm welcome offered to Syrian refugees in Canada.  It’s a super […]

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