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Advent and Long-Suffering Hope

Advent and Long-Suffering Hope November 28, 2021

Rembrandt, “Simeon’s Song of Praise,” 1631, Wikimedia {{US-PD-expired}}.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Many churches lit the Prophecy or Prophet’s Candle during morning services. The Prophecy or Prophet’s Candle emphasizes the long-awaited, long-suffering, and long-lasting hope for the Messiah’s first advent as well as his return. My wife and I reflected during morning devotions upon such passages as Luke 2, where Simeon and Anna rejoiced when Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus in the Temple. The following passage illustrates the earnest and patient hope they and others had, as they held firm to the biblical prophets’ promise of the Messiah’s coming:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32; NIV)

Patient and long-suffering hope is in short supply in our society, which fixates on instant gratification and high-speed internet and cars. Against this backdrop, it is hard to wait patiently for the Lord.

It is also extremely difficult to be patient when dealing with a traumatic brain injury, as in the case of my adult son Christopher. It has been over ten months since Christopher endured the injury. As my wife said to me not too long ago, progress of whatever kind is seldom linear. Case in point, while we have taken to heart that Christopher has recently responded to yes-no questions with the blinking of his eyes (one blink for yes and two blinks for no, or the reverse depending on the care-giver’s preference), he has also ‘refused’ to cooperate on one or more occasions when a CNA tried to brush his teeth.

If you read my various posts, you may recall that I once recalled Dante’s line from The Inferno “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” when pondering whether to stick one’s finger in Christopher’s mouth to get him to open it. Woe to the person who enters there in the attempt to assist with brushing. They may not ever get their finger(s) back, if he clamps shut his pearly gates of teeth.

The other night, I thought that Christopher would cooperate with the CNA and me and allow us to brush his teeth. After all, he often cooperated in the past and was recently showing signs of conscious control in other areas. Boy, was I wrong. He bit down hard on that brush and would not let go. I kept my fingers far away from his teeth and asked the CNA what we needed to get my son to release the tooth brush. Her answer: “Patience.” We needed patience and she modeled it. Eventually, Christopher relented and released the toothbrush.

My son’s CNA was so patient. She playfully pleaded with Christopher and slowly and gently pulled at the brush. She never once got frustrated or lost her poise, though she was very busy and had many residents to whom she had to attend. Later, she told me she had a lot of pratice growing up that prepared her well for being a CNA. She had to take care of her mother who endured a significant injury when she was a child. As in the case of my son’s CNA, practice makes perfect in all areas of life, including with patience and hope.

The CNA thought Christopher bit down hard as an attempt to protect himself. To the extent he was cognizant of his actions and it was voluntary, it prompts me to express the same kind of tenacious resolve and bite down hard and hold firmly to the biblical hope that Jesus will make all things new. Just as it takes vigilence in tending to Christopher’s teeth and in making sure he does not develop pneumonia or bed sores given his sedentary position, so it takes vigilence and watchfulness to prepare for Jesus’ coming.

Jesus never promised us a rose garden. The blessed hope that he embodies bears a crown of thorns and many drops of blood and tears. Just as those who long for him to come again hold tenaciously to that hope like Simeon and Anna of old, so I hold firmly to the hope that Jesus will make Christopher a new creation. Though I do not know when or how that will occur, we do everything in our power to assist in the process and watch for danger signs of various kinds as well as encouraging signs of healing. Brushing teeth, repositioning, moving limbs, talking, reading, playing music, and advocating for Christopher, all play their part in exercising and strengthening long-suffering patience and hope. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

To read the various updates on Christopher and our family’s unfathomable journey in coping and hoping in the midst of TBI, refer here. For information on my book on the church calendar Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse, refer to the trailer below or click on the book title.

 

 

 

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdmans, 2003) and Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse (Cascade, 2020). You can read more about the author here.

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