Lonely & Waiting: Walking Through Advent With Those Who Are Grieving

rocking chair

Three years ago, I approached Advent with a feeling of dread. As the world awaited our Savior, my family was preparing to lose a loved one. My grandfather’s health was steadily declining at the age of 89, and I remember visiting him the day after Christmas with a bit of hesitation. I knew this would likely be the last time that I saw him and my whole body ached with grief. All season, I wondered how we could celebrate Christmas knowing what was on the horizon. Less than a month later, he passed away.

The first year following his death, my mother encouraged my siblings and I to each write notes for our grandmother that would be included in an Advent basket. Each note was a memory we shared with our grandparents and was sometimes accompanied by a small gift. That year, our grandmother opened one card or gift a day and even though we couldn’t be there with her, we were still together through these memories and special gifts. We have done this every year that has followed.

In the shadow of a very difficult pastoral month with multiple deaths and hospitalizations, I think back to that year and the few that have followed. I think about the loss that my family prepared for in the midst of Advent celebrations, and I think of the empty space in the years that have followed. I think of my grandmother and the empty chair beside her.

I think about all of those in our lives, all of those in our congregations who have lost someone this year. I think about the emptiness that is only accentuated by the holiday festivities. How as friends and pastors, as the one Body of Christ who we await, can we be with them and help to make that hole a bit smaller this year?

Our Advent basket has become a tradition now, and I think I might gain as much from putting together my pieces as my grandmother does as she opens them. The memories with my grandparents come flooding back and my prayers for my grandmother guide my every step as I consider books and treats to include with my cards. I have found my own healing and my prayer is that the rest of my family has as well.

This holiday season, I encourage each one of us to consider what we can do to be a representation of the One who we await, for those who feel as if they have little to wait for. If the time allows, maybe it is through this Advent calendar of memories and prayers or maybe it is through visits and conversations. Even a phone call to let our friends and family know we are praying for them will help to fill the emptiness just a bit.

Does your congregation or family do anything for those who have lost a loved one during the year?
If you have experienced loss this year, how would you like to hear from your church and family during the holiday season?

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

A Time to Give Thanks

1-Thessalonians
This past Sunday, I had a conversation with excited elementary aged children about what makes a house a home just before our congregation dedicated their pledges in our stewardship campaign, “Let Us Build A House.”

Later that afternoon, I gathered with a family who recently lost their loved one way too soon and although I did not know him, I mourned with them as I read the words of the Psalmist and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

Only moments after settling back at my desk to prepare for youth group, I read of the shooting in Texas and my heart ached as I prayed for the community and wondered what I could do.

Sunday evening, my high school youth gathered for Bible Study and discussed the scriptural phrase “Here I Am” and what it means when we respond to God in the same way as Moses, Samuel, and Mary. We looked at the world where we are, who we are as 20171107_113508individuals, and whose we are in relation to God. At the close of the study, I listened to these high schoolers name problems and heartaches that they see in this world and describe how they will use their talents and passions to respond to them. They were challenged to consider what this response says about their relationship with God and who they believe God to be; to answer the question of whose they are, who they are telling “Here I am.”

 

On Monday, I lay in bed looking out the window at the changing trees and reflected on the day before. It was full of beauty and heartache, excitement and dread. There were moments when I wondered how anyone could question if there is a God, and there were moments that I wondered where God was. In the end, my youth showed me exactly where God is – in each one of them, and in all of us as we try to cry out “Here I am!” with Moses, Samuel, and Mary.

As the holiday season ramps up, a tradition for many is beginning once again. Facebook is being flooded with individuals listing what they are grateful for. In a world that seems so broken, these brief moments of prayer bring a light that is so desperately needed. These prayers of thanksgiving help me to personally find a focus and be able to say “Here I am.”

On Sunday I was painfully reminded that in this season of family gatherings and joyful songs, there are also those who will sit alone singing songs of lament. I pray that as we each find ourselves at different points in this journey, we will continue to find those brief moments of Thanksgiving and carry them forward both with and for one another into the dark winter nights and bright spring mornings.

As I talked with those children on the steps of our sanctuary on Sunday, I told them that the best way to thank God for all we have been given is to help to make our house a home for everyone. We talked about needing love, forgiveness, grace, and family to make this transition. It is through this love and grace shared with those around us that we are able to respond to God, saying “Here I am.”

As the days get shorter and nights get longer, as we watch the news and wonder what we can do – let us join the voices on Facebook as we give thanks. Let us join the voices of those who have gone before us as we tell God, “Here I am” and live with one another in a way that share this thanksgiving and praise, in a way that share God’s love and grace.

How are you responding with “Here I am” in your own life and ministry?
How do you encourage your congregation to join you in this thanksgiving to God?

 Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)