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December Note from Ned

Note from Ned


When I sit down to write these “notes from Ned” each month, I almost never have a topic in mind until I start to write.  I say to myself, “What could I say that might interest and be of value to the people who read my newsletter?”

Then there is a dreaded silence in my brain.  Nothing.  So I wait, as I am waiting now, and then it comes, as it’s coming now.  The spirit, as they say, moves me.

Waiting.  For Christians (as an Episcopalian, I count myself a Christian), we are now in the season of waiting.  We call it Advent.  We are awaiting the birth of Jesus.  We are yearning for the world to be saved by the birth of our Savior. We know these words, we can recite these words, but do they have bite?  Do they have traction in our guts?  Do they get us anywhere at all, or do they just fill the time allotted to speak them?

          Amidst all the buying of presents, the worrying about spending money I don’t have, the running of my practices for which I rely heavily on trusted others, the planning of new projects, and the hundreds of sticky issues and prickly problems that crop up every week, somewhere in a quiet, soft spot in my soul, there is a Ned, huddling with others, knowing how bursting with sin and sorrow this world surely is, hoping and praying that our patient wait will be rewarded by a glorious miracle no one quite believes in but everyone hopes will happen.

That’s the crux of it.  Whatever your tradition or belief—Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, humanist—at its center pulsates the audacious seemingly foolish hope that we will all somehow be saved, that this tiring, grief-filled trek called life has an endgame worth living for, spelled out by a Savior worth believing in.

I have a dear friend only in his 50’s who was just diagnosed with ALS.  It is likely over the next couple of years he will slowly and painfully progress toward a death no one would want to describe, let alone suffer.  I love this man, but I can only give him my prayers and support.  Can I give him hope?  When I tried, he told me he didn’t want to talk about it.  “It is what it is,” he said to me.  “It’s no big deal.”

Until he dies, my friend will know the meaning of waiting in a way I hope none of us ever has to learn.  But this season of waiting, for us Christians what’s called this season of Advent, asks us to join my friend and all the rest of hapless humanity in hoping, yearning, reaching for an event that was foretold, promised, and has actually been celebrated for thousands of years as if it really did happen, once, long ago, in a manger, the same cheap manger you see today represented on town greens and in shopping malls.  There was no dignity or spectacle in this supposedly miraculous birth.  And yet we are asked to join in waiting for it as if the whole world depended on it.

But what if it’s true? What is the promise is not illusory?  What if we really are living a miracle?  What if the suffering my friend is facing does have an endgame worth living for, worth hoping for, worth believing in?  How can we be sure?  How can he be sure?

Wait, and see.

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