Yesterday was the first day of Advent. During worship, the Candle of Hope was lit on the Advent Wreath. The Scripture lesson was Jeremiah 23:5-6 which reads:
5 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous descendant from David’s line, and he will rule as a wise king. He will do what is just and right in the land. 6 During his lifetime, Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And his name will be The Lord Is Our Righteousness.
During her sermon, the pastor pointed out that there were roughly 600 years between Jeremiah’s prophecy for the Lord and the birth of the Messiah. That’s a long time to hold on to hope.
When I was a child it seemed like the longest span of time in the year was between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I certainly resonated with the old Alvin and the Chipmunks song that said, “Hurry Christmas! Don’t be late.” Patience and hope were tough to practice.
Back in my lawyer days I was a partner in a law firm, but for those who do not know the ins and outs of partnership law, not all partners are created equally in all partnerships. I was more of a junior partner. I got a percentage of the partnership’s earnings, but not as much as the equity partners and they did not have to guarantee my salary as they had when I was an associate. And I was still at the bottom of the firm’s totem pole. Things flowed downhill and there was no one below me.
I was assigned a case from an older attorney who was sort of a rainmaker. He brought cases, but others handled them and he got a piece of the action in the end. This case was an appeal from a denial of unemployment compensation.
Frank had worked for more than 20 years for a major corporate grocery store chain, the last several as a produce manager. The laws of capitalism dictate that there are times when seniority and tenure make it advisable to discharge employees when younger ones will cost less. Frank was one of those. He got shnookered by his manager into resigning rather than being fired. It would look better on his resume, they said. He fell for it – like a lot of people in this right-to-work state.
When he applied for unemployment benefits, the employer objected saying he voluntarily quit. This was an absolute bar to benefits under Indiana law. Frank came to the rainmaker who filed an appeal and then dropped the file on my desk.
It was a hopeless case. Cut and dried. Just go through the motions. I did my best to be honest and yet hopeful with Frank. But talk about a waste of time…
Then a minor miracle happened. When the appeal hearing occurred, no one for the employer appeared. Frank won by default and received his unemployment benefits. Frank thought he had the best lawyer ever. I knew it was just a fluke.
Fast forward several years, I’m now the associate pastor of the church Frank’s wife Rosie attends very regularly without Frank. She tells Frank about the new associate pastor. He remembers me and starts to attend worship somewhat regularly, at least on the one Sunday a month I preached.
Months later, he tells me he wants to profess faith in Christ and be baptized – by me. The Senior Pastor was a delightfully non-territorial person so she readily agreed.
After worship that Sunday, Rosie came up to me for a hug, tears streaming down her face making her mascara run like a sweaty football player’s eyeblack.
“I’ve been praying for this day for 35 years,” she said.
How persistent in patience are we as we wait through Advent, waiting for the full realization of the hope we have for the Messiah?