This will be the first of a couple posts of a very different tone from the others I've written. It's a significant departure from the light-hearted themes I've chosen so far and might be a bit of a shock for some of you. However, I feel it's time to show a deeper side of me. It would probably be more comfortable for some if I eased into this change gradually, and I've tried to figure out a way to do that. But I also need to write about what's in my heart. Please forgive the abrupt change.


Advent

This is the first year that I've decided to talk to José about Advent. He's been steadily growing in his ability to talk to me about the things he cares about and when I reflect his thoughts back to him with more full vocabulary, it's almost like having a conversation. This has encouraged me to talk to him about things that I care about as well, and although he doesn't have as much patience for hearing about the subjects I choose, I nonetheless encourage (force?) him to hear me out sometimes. So I'm talking to him about Advent.

As I struggle to find words to explain this season that have meaning for José, I also find myself contemplating more deeply it's meaning. In researching different ways of drawing children into a time of anticipating Christ's birth, I've been drawn to the song O Come O Come Emmanuel. On the surface, I enjoy the lovely melancholy melody and liturgical feel of the words as I sing them. What surprised me the other day, though, is that as I was singing the refrain, “Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel” is that I found myself close to tears. The strange thing was that it actually felt right. Here's why. The refrain calls us to rejoice, but before those words comes a different story. In the first verse we hear of a people who are captive, mourning, in exile, waiting to be ransomed. That's what gets me. But not just because of this song. For a few days before connecting with this song, I was feeling a tension, a disconnect, unsatisfied. I finally pinpointed that, among other things, it was stemming from spending more time at José's school.

At the beginning of the month I was asked to help distribute our government-sponsored breakfasts at José's school. I spent a couple weeks going from classroom to classroom, checking attendance and distributing milk and snacks accordingly. This gave me glimpses into each classroom and the dynamics at play between teachers and students. Being that I'm a teacher, and a highly sensitive* one at that, I was highly tuned to these dynamics. Some of what I saw and heard was encouraging and uplifting for me: rapport, attentiveness, structure, rhythm. But I also saw much more than I wished of disrespect, inattention, physical barriers, and instructional rigidity. I recognize that I don't have the entire picture of what goes on at José's school, but after one week of these observations I felt heavy with sadness.

I long to see José surrounded by teachers who work because of vocation more than salary, who see their students as deserving of the very best they have to give, and who know God's love for them such that it overflows to the kids they see every day. I know that God longs for this as well.

So I find myself responding to the call for Israel to rejoice with mourning. I can understand on a small level how they were living in the chasm between reality and possibility. Between hope in God's promise and mourning their present circumstance. I believe that one promise was fulfilled by a baby in a manger. For this I have reason to rejoice and I anticipate the celebration of that birth. But there are promises that God has yet to fulfill – a kingdom on earth where tears will be wiped away. Where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4) And I also pray for God's presence at José's school, even as I mourn how much work he has yet to do there.

*For more information on highly sensitive people click here.

 

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