By Kim Tomaszewski
The story goes that “a terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
Hearing the warning a man decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divinEdite miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.” As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop. A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned. When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in you. Why didn’t you come and save me?” And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”
I am always drawn to this time of year, not for the holiday craze, or the gift giving, or even the delicious sweets, but rather for Advent. Other than the daily chocolates found behind the paper doors, this was not a season I grew up with or understood. Advent, I believed and in part rightfully, counted down the days until Christmas. What I hadn’t yet discovered was that Advent, the Latin word for “coming,” is a time of preparation, expectant waiting, and a season that at its core is an opportunity for alertness.
“It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” says one of the Advent texts, Romans 13, and “Therefore, stay awake!” Matthew 24.
This Advent I am reminded of the story of the man who trusted in god’s help. I’m not sure I was trusting in god, or if I was just downright stubborn, but our recent storms certainly showed how ill prepared, how un-alert, how not expectant I was. I was one of the many who needed gas the days after the storm. I was one of many who wondered how many more days of oatmeal I could eat after not buying other food that would outlast the ever warming refrigerator.
What was I waiting for and who or what was I trusting in, if not my own attention and ability to respond to what I knew was coming?
During a time when the world is telling us to shop, to join and push through the crowds, to show our love and spirit in often times material giving, I admit that I am often the one to say, “it will get done, go away person in car, in canoe, in motorboat or helicopter; I will wait for another way.” I am also, of course, the one who is continuously shocked when I find myself underwater and without.
Do I ignore the rushing tide of the season? Do I truly believe it will show itself differently somehow or that I can skirt what every other person experiences simply by trusting and ignoring? Of course not. But the want to be saved by it all in a different way than joining in is strong, and so I find myself metaphorically without gas and on my eighth day of oatmeal by the time Christmas rears its jolly head.
This Advent season I invite you to join me in a time of Awe and Wonder, of a different kind of Preparedness and intentional Alertness: of Quiet and Simplicity. Every day from December 2nd through December 25th, I will be reading a short Advent reflection that allows me to sit with the stillness of the words, with the opportunity to reflect on the spirit of my heart and mind, and with the chance to become alert to the messages that are right before my eyes, waiting for me to be awakened to them.
While doing this practice, I will be setting a goal for myself and the ways I will move throughout the day. Each of these readings and intentions will be shared on our website under the adult education tab. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” “Therefore, stay awake!” I invite you to join me.