The Uncomfortable Task of Giving Comfort


It has been almost two years now since the first cases of Covid began to be identified and our lives are still not “back to normal.” (Hello there, Omicron.)  It’s been 18 months now since the death of George Floyd and the work of racial justice and equity still looms large.  It’s been almost a year now since the January 6th uprising and still we struggle to reckon with the truth of that day and all that led up to it.  And then last week, another tragedy of gun violence—this time at Oxford High School in Michigan. Grief and grievance have become very much a part of everyday life, and with the passing of time it is hard to remain present to those who find themselves immersed in the depths of these realities.  Especially as the holidays approach, we’d rather busy ourselves elsewhere.  But the words of the prophets during this Advent season remind us of the importance of continuing to attend to the suffering of those who are struggling and hurt, angry and exhausted, outraged and mourning…. and to give witness to that often hard-to-find, hard-to-practice virtue of hope.  I was challenged to ponder where I could be better at “offering comfort” of late while praying with Isaiah 40:1-11, which I preach about here (for Dec. 7).  My friend Lisa Brown, who lives only minutes away from Oxford High School witnesses to hope even more powerfully in her preaching from this past weekend.  Very worth the listen. (If you only have time to listen to one or the other this week, I would recommend: pick hers.)

A few things that are sustaining hope in my life right now:

  •  Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasure of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz.  A delightful, thoughtful read that is teaching me to savor the many hours I’ve spent reading and just thinking.  She is helping me remember that life is about much more than just “getting stuff done.” (Plus, look at the author’s picture when you get the book.  Don’t you want to live life in a way that makes you smile like that?)
  •  My Advent playlist.  I finally broke down last week and got Apple Music after none of my devices would sync on this front any longer.  The gift is that it has already broadened my repertoire of songs for this “season before the feast” when I’m not quite ready yet for all the carols.   A couple of favorites: “May You Find a Light” (The Brilliance), “Let It Be So” (Sarah Hart), “Vapor” (The Liturgists), “O Come Emmanuel (The Civil Wars), Jon Sarta’s lovely instrumental album (Catholic Music Project 8: Advent)
  • French toast made out of panettone (something I learned about for the first time in Miami!)

Praying that you, too, are finding much to feed your spirit this Advent!