My favorite advent hymn is "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." It is a hymn that helps me understand why Jesus coming to Israel so many years ago is still so relevant to us today in Houston.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
O come, Thou Day-Spring come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
When I hear these words, I hear desperation. I think of the Israelites who were crying out for deliverance from desperate situations when Jesus came. And I think of all those who are in desperate situations now, waiting for prayers to be answered. To me, advent is a time of rejuvenating my commitment to pay attention to the presence of pain and injustice in my neighborhood, city, and world. Because Jesus hears these cries and He hurts too.
My refugee friends have taught me so much about waiting for deliverance in desperate times. Just as Jesus’ family fled for their lives when He was an infant, my friends have fled persecution and danger that I cannot even imagine. They have been forced from their homes and have lived for years or even decades in large refugee resettlement areas, not knowing when or whether they would return home, when or whether they would reunite with beloved family and friends. This waiting without knowing must be so excruciating.
Things are often not much easier when they come to the United States. Here, I see them wait for jobs that will support their families, wait for approval for food stamps, wait for healthcare desperately needed to restore hurting bodies and minds.
And yet, somehow, in the midst of suffering, there is rejoicing. This is the part that baffles me. Rejoicing that looks like showing up to church offering a smile and a hug even though you can’t understand every word being spoken. Going to school and working so hard to learn and get good grades. Welcoming a new refugee family next door with a meal. Preparing for a Westbury UMC More Than Enough Love event by buying extra toilet paper so your home can fill guests’ needs.
My friends’ suffering is real. Their inspiring joy is not contingent on happy circumstances-it is advent joy--joy in the waiting.
Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
Lindsey Heathcock grew up on Oahu, Hawaii and moved to Houston in 2009. She first got involved in FAM as a member of Westbury UMC in 2012 when she and her husband Daniel were invited by church leadership to move into the Fondren Southwestarea with Pastor Hannah to meet neighbors and see what God was up to. She now serves on the FAM board. Lindsey is a fourth year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine and plans to continue training to become a pediatrician.