Faith: A time for procrastination?
I procrastinated to the point that I’m now writing this article on my phone, as I’m lying in a hospital bed. As a chaplain, I’ve spent many nights in the hospital, but this is the first time I’ve spent a night in the hospital as a patient.
One of the main themes of the season of Advent is waiting: We wait for the arrival of Jesus, looking forward to Jesus coming again to bring the world to righteousness, and looking backward to the time when the Word of God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, a human baby, born in the most humble and ordinary of estates.
This is what the waiting of Advent should be about as we live in the in-between time of anticipation and hope.
But for me this season of Advent, I’ve experienced another degree of waiting: procrastination. On one level, this could easily be explained by the many things that face all of us in this season of preparing. And I guess that’s true.
But I’m sort of preparing for something else. I got engaged on Dec. 4, and even though I should be thinking of the “proper” preparations of the season, I have to admit that some of my “preparation time” has focused on my fiancée.
Thus, I have procrastinated on writing this particular article.
I procrastinated to the point that I’m now writing it on my phone, as I’m lying in a hospital bed. As a chaplain, I’ve spent many nights in the hospital, but this is the first time I’ve spent a night in the hospital as a patient.
And I’m struck by a couple of things. First, I’m reminded of the role of compassion that we share as followers of Jesus. I’m struck by the ministry of Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, as we may have heard on the Third Sunday in Advent from the Gospel of Luke.
The crowds, even tax collectors and soldiers, are called to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8) - an instruction that didn’t end with John the Baptist, but continues into the ministry of Jesus. John tells those listening to him to do so by sharing, not cheating, and not bullying (see Luke 3:10-14); in short, to show compassion to all their - all our - neighbors.
The other thing my little stint as a patient in the hospital showed me was the prevalence of God. Sometimes God’s presence was relatively obvious, as during the end of the day prayer, or the visit of the chaplain at the time I should have been entering the Sanctuary.
But the presence of God was also there in less “obvious” ways: my fiancée and her medical training getting me to the ER before it got too serious, the skills of the staff, and the wonder of pharmaceuticals that can make and keep us well.
God is very present in human intelligence and ingenuity.
Advent is a time of waiting. But Advent is also a time of seeking to find God in the ordinary places around us. Let’s pause to see where we can find God in those places, and maybe others we wouldn’t expect, even as we charge headlong into the busyness of the Christmas season.
The Rev. Jacob Burkman is pastor at First Lutheran Church in Pine River.