On occasion, Fr. Ken Schmidt at St. Thomas More Student Parish in Kalamazoo (where I still go for Mass from time to time … because I am admittedly sometimes lazy about going to Mass), will come up with really good homilies. I really think he has a gift to write speeches that can get a person thinking without regurgitating the Gospel readings that were heard 30 seconds before.

He usually posts what he writes weekly, so that those who don’t hear them can still read them, which is how I came to today’s blog. See, while I did go to the 11:30 Mass on Sunday, Ken was scheduled for a different one – so I missed out.

So as I played catch up today, I came across this. And considering there have been many times this year that I have not heard or not perceived God talking to me, times when I felt a little lonely, Ken once again gets me to think about the fact that God was there all along in His own time:

“Advent is really hard. It’s a time for waiting, which I don’t do well at all. I want to know, now; I want to plan; I want control. But it’s God’s schedule, not my schedule. Advent is a season that says, “slow down; stop; wait;
hope; be patient; expect.” Those things don’t make much sense if we refer them to preparing for the birth of Christ, because it’s already happened. They do make much more sense in the present, as Jesus continues to break into our personal lives – but when? how? where’s he leading me? what’s down the road? and what’s will happen
after that? And the worst – I don’t know!

I don’t think Advent is just hard for me. We’re not a culture that waits very well. (These examples aren’t intended to provoke guilt, because there are a lot of reasons why we do what we do.) When I receive Christmas presents during Advent, I want to open them now, I don’t want to wait for Christmas, or make them last through the 12
days of Christmas. When parents learn of a pregnancy, they don’t have to wait to find out the baby’s gender and health and genetics – it’s hard to wait. Graduates are finishing school and looking for employment or applying to graduate schools, and they often don’t know where they’ll be six months from now. The doctor’s office calls and says “Your tests came back and we want to refer you to a specialist,” and then we have to wait for appointments and more tests and dark thoughts fill our minds. Sometimes we have periods of prayer and God doesn’t seem to be saying anything or doing anything and we start to wonder and maybe doubt, and it’s hard to hope and believe.

It seems to me that Advent is a time of intense training, a practice period for patience, a season of learning to wait, to have hope, to expect to encounter God but knowing when or how. It’s a time of darkness, wondering whether God is there. It’s a time to trust that, even when I don’t feel God’s presence or notice God’s action, God is still a love and transforming my life with grace.

Then a moment will come when God’s life breaks forth in some way – perhaps new, or unexpected or even miraculous. We may have to wait for a long time, like the Hebrews who waited generations for a Messiah. We may have to wait for a lifetime as Elizabeth and Zechariah did waiting for a child. God may come in a totally shocking
way as he did to Mary and Joseph as they dealt with her pregnancy.

I’m comforted by Mary’s reactions – she asked questions, “What do you mean by saying that?” “How can this possibly be true?” and Finally, “Yes, I’ll do what God wants.” And then she rushed off to see her cousin Elizabeth, who also had some strange experience with an angel and her own shocking news of a pregnancy. And I think they must have talked a lot as they reflected on their experiences and wondered what was God doing, and drawn some strength and faith from one another. So then Mary could go home and faces the stares and the gossip and the finger pointing, and she could be taken into Joseph’s home and family and be safe there. She had months of pregnancy and years of child-raising to wonder, “What does this all mean? What’s going to happen to me, and to my son?” even as she desired to please God.

So Advent is a time for waiting, watching, and wondering;
a season for trusting, hoping, and expecting God to be here;
it’s thoughts of not knowing and feelings of darkness and fear,
and efforts to plan and manage what’s not under our control.
It’s a season for practicing patience, and for some of us, it’s very hard.

That’s why I don’t like Advent; and why every year I still try to be faithful to Advent.”

I am just like Ken. Those who follow this blog know that I’m all about movie spoilers before I actually go see a movie. You know that I’m that guy who reads the end of the book before anything else (Yeah, I was one of those folks who scanned through the early posted copy of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows the week before it was released to book stores.

So it should be of no surprise to you to hear me say that it’s been killing me not to open the presents that Niki and the kids put under the tree a week ago.

You know, earlier this year, when I was asked to leave the MML, there was a time I didn’t feel that God was with me, that I had finally done something so bad that even He couldn’t put it back together.

But then I get a call in September saying “Hey, come on back to Lansing and show people that you can land on your feet despite what some other folks think.” And then I get approached by folks to come back to the Michigan Jaycees and be a part of their leadership again. And I get to the end of 2009 and find myself still here, alive and kicking.

Yes, while I am not the most patient person in the world, even though I am not worthy of the gifts that I have been given, God still transforms me despite the fact that I don’t like Advent.

How blessed it is to believe in God and to be loved by Him, despite it all!

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