It is December, and we are waiting. My husband and I are waiting to hear when our son will be able to return to in-person school. All students in Seattle public schools are engaged in remote learning. Some students with disabilities are eligible to receive in-person services if their teaching team decides it is necessary for them to make progress on their Individualized Education Plan goals. We first requested in-person services in September, and were told we needed to wait. In October his teachers made the recommendation that he receive in-person lessons. The next step, apparently, is for the Health Services Department to review his case. And then there are more steps after that. Although he has been approved, we are stuck in limbo waiting to find out when he might actually be able to attend school. It is hard to sit with uncertainty.
After months of social distancing, we are waiting. Waiting to know when a vaccine will be ready, and waiting to learn how it will be distributed. We miss seeing our loved ones. We miss gathering in person to worship together, sharing meals and even committee meetings. We are waiting to know when we will be able to gather together again, to give hugs and hold hands and join our voices in song. It is hard to live with the uncertainty of not knowing when we will be together again.
In the Christian tradition, Advent is a time of hopeful and expectant waiting for the celebration of the Birth of Christ. Many progressive Christians have articulated a liberating message of Christmas: a brown child, born to poor, unwed parents, whose birth is heralded by angels and who is visited by wise and rich men. A child who will grow and preach a message of love and justice that will transform the world. Advent is celebrated with candles that represent hope, joy, love and peace. Siri Liv Myhrom writes, “Advent asks us to make peace with the lingering and reminds us that we can. It gently shows us again that there can be deep joy in that in-between place, that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other pace.”
Even though in Advent we wait for Christmas, we don’t need to wait to experience hope, joy, love and peace. We can cultivate these qualities as we anticipate Christmas. As my husband and I wait to learn when our child will return to school, we can appreciate the joy he brings us every day. We can tend the seeds of hope inside of us that he will get the education that is his right, even as we work for justice in education for all children. We can remind ourselves of the love we share as a family. And we can cultivate peace within ourselves.
As we wait to know when we might gather together again in person, let us cultivate seeds of hope that as a society we will use our resources to protect and care for one another in these difficult times. Let us find the joy in staying connected to one another in safe ways. Let us feel the love that we share in our community. And may we cultivate peace in the midst of uncertainty and unknowing.