Advent III: Got Hope?

Timothy hopes for a shot at the paperwhite blossom

For what are you hoping this Christmas?

On a stroll around Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall Friday afternoon, the busiest places were those selling electronics. An elderly couple entrusted themselves and their credit card to the hipster sales dude  at Verizon. Two men for whom English is not a native language were haggling at the T-Mobile kiosk as if they were in a Marrakech bazaar. This year, they, like so many in the Western World, want the latest gadget at the best price. Unlike children from a couple of generations back who were thrilled to find an orange in their stockings, today’s savvy gift recipients expect Apples.

Thankfully, there’s far more to Christmas.

Take Cliff and Lena. They are hoping for the health of their eight-year-old daughter Olivia. It’s not the first Christmas season they’ve spent at a children’s hospital in St. Louis. In 2007 they tasted the sweetness of hope’s fulfillment when Olivia was given a new heart, a precious gift that gave her a new chance for a better life. This year she is fighting several issues that have weakened her body. Cliff and Lena wait. They are surrounded by excellent medical staff at the hospital, and caring volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s not home, but Cliff and Lena aren’t complaining. That’s not their style.

They wait with an ever-expanding network of family and friends who check Facebook far more frequently than usual these days because we want the latest news on Olivia that we find on the special “We Love You Olivia!” page. We may not be physically in St. Louis, but we stand with Olivia’s parents before the God of all hope who hears our petitions for her healing. Badmouth social media if you want, but it’s been a powerful tool that reminds this family they are deeply cared for and dearly loved.

Olivia’s need for healing, and our hopes and prayers for that outcome, are just what the prophet Isaiah had in mind. “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God … He will come and save you.” Those of us who know Olivia have had many opportunities to experience joy and gladness for the many miracles that have been packed into her life since her birth. We are looking forward to more rejoicing this Christmas season. We’ve got hope and that takes a bite out of an Apple under any ol’ tree.

NOTE: KSDK in St. Louis aired this story about Olivia’s heart transplant on Dec. 25, 2007:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:1-10, NRSV, Old Testament reading for third Sunday in Advent.)

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