Some may see and wish to lay emphasis upon the violent drama of Advent, the crushing arrival of a sudden end. “The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed” (2 Pet. 3:10). Wars already fought show this prediction not as a metaphor but a literal truth, and the threat of such destruction continues as a fact of modern life. The question is raised: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:11-12). Earnestly desiring a new heaven and a new earth, have we denied our citizenship, spurned our responsibility, and turned against all natural affections? God forbid. Now is the moment to pursue a life of holiness and godliness. Now is the time to “strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish” (2 Pet. 3:14). News of the end should bind the heart to the present.
It’s not the end of the world, but the people sitting in Hematology/Oncology, my new friends, have, it must be admitted, a significant challenge. But there is no talk of death, no wallowing in serious ponderings about the brevity of life. Instead, there is a respectful quiet, gestures of kindness, and the occasional laugh. In other words, when death is really there, its defeat is most notable in the courage and dignity and, even, lightness of spirit shared, and, of course, the underground current of sorrow and loss. There are exceptions, but those who talk profoundly of death likely have never courted this barren truth. So the emphasis might be where it belongs: the present moment, all its joys and sorrows, and the hope of comfort.
Meet the real Jesus. “The earliest pictures of Christ, those of the Shepherd and the Teacher, are veiled, symbolic figures, only recognizable to the initiated. … He is usually shown as a young man dressed in a short tunic which leaves one shoulder bare (tunica exomis) and carrying a sheep on his shoulders (motif from St. John). He is generally surrounded by his flock and stands amid the praying souls (orantes), quiet and gentle, in the garden of his paradise” (Atlas of the Christian World, 1959, p. 44).
In other words, he knows just how to walk into Hematology/Oncology. He speaks quietly and tenderly, he is among the orantes who sit in silence, or whisper, or laugh, or weep. He knows that all the people are grass. They know it too. One man says, “I’d like to get back on my bike (Harley), but my left leg is nearly useless right now.” Jesus agrees, but only with his body, not a word. But, of course, the word made flesh, who in both life and death is ever present, stands forever (Isa. 40:8).
Jesus prepares the way, sending forbearers (the Old Testament) and new bearers (the Church) to help our weakened rider. He straightens the path, lifts up the valley, brings low the mountain. It is not a life-and-death trail of hairpin turns and treacherous cliffs. A smooth and simple way prepared, Jesus speaks: “See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him (Isa. 40:10). Ride for all the freedom you feel; ride for the life in you; ride, if you must, in heart and sorrow. Go, because the going is without end. Comfort, O comfort my people!”
Look It Up
Read Isaiah 40:10. Lower your voice.
Think About It
If they know death, leave death alone! Comfort.