As a child, I remember how long Advent felt as I anticipated presents on Christmas morning and a week off school. As an adult, I have the opposite feeling, marveling at how quickly Advent flies by. Instead of something to anticipate, Christmas feels like a deadline with so much to do and not enough time to do it. Throughout my life, my focus during Advent has often been on waiting for Christmas day to arrive. No matter how long or short it felt, I knew that Christmas would indeed arrive on December 25.
But this year has been different. Over the past several weeks, I have been praying earnestly for good news on a personal matter. What has made the wait particularly challenging is not knowing when the news will come, much less if it will be the good news I desire. Unlike waiting for Christmas, it is unclear when or if this prayer will be answered.
As the days have stretched into weeks and months, I have started to wonder if God is even listening. And that brought me to today’s Gospel, where we read about the genealogy of Jesus. Getting through the names requires patience, but imagine the patience required of the generations who wondered, “Will this be the day/week/month/year that the Messiah will arrive?” only to have their entire lifetimes pass without the promise being fulfilled.
Likewise, many of the people we serve are forced to wait for answers that don’t always arrive. They might be waiting for space to open in a rehab center. They might be waiting to match with a child to adopt. They might be waiting for a final decision on their immigration status. Unfortunately, some people will not get the answers they need before it is too late.
So how do we reconcile waiting for answers to prayers that might never come? The only answer I can find is Emmanuel – God with us! You see, even at Christmas, God does not promise to fix every problem we face. Instead, God promises to be with us, in the muck, in the mud, in the mess. And ultimately, in the waiting, even if we spend our entire lives waiting for answers to prayers that do not come.
Through Catholic Charities, we can be the presence of God for the people we serve. May this Advent and Christmas season be an encouragement for us and a reminder that no matter how long we must wait, God is with us!
Peter Weiss has been the Director of Living Justice with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay in 2017. Peter’s role is to promote Catholic Social Teaching and raise awareness about issues of injustice throughout the Diocese of Green Bay.
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