The waiting room of a hospital’s intensive care is unlike any place in the world. The people who wait there are bound together like no others anywhere.
Family members and friends can’t do enough for each other. No one is proud, no one stands on ceremony and protocol goes out the window. Petty disputes and hurts are nowhere to be found. The distinction of race and class melt away. A person is a father, mother or spouse first, white, black or Asian second. The bin collector loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his and in this waiting room everyone understands. Each person pulls for everyone else. A family’s good news gives joy and hope to everyone else, the sadness and grief of a family’s loss is felt by all.
In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretence dissipate. The entire universe is focused on the doctor’s next report.
In that waiting room we can’t help but face the fact that life is fragile and limited. In waiting for word of some improvement in our loved one’s condition, every moment of life becomes a gift.
The intensive care waiting room is a place of hoping. It is a place of anticipating and of expecting. It is a place of Advent.
Life is a waiting room, a place confronting us with both the preciousness and the precariousness of the time we are given and the inevitable, though still always difficult changes that we must contend with in the course of that time.
Jesus calls us to on this First Sunday of Advent to realise what many in that intensive care waiting room understand, that our lives are an Advent, a time of anticipating, expecting and hoping. Being an Advent people is to understand the importance of now; that now is the time to love our spouses and children, that now is the time for hugs and I-love-you, that now is the time to make the kind of memories that will live on well after we have left this world.
Above all Advent calls us to “watch”, to pay attention to the signs of God’s unmistakable presence in our lives, to live life expectantly, not as a death sentence but as a gift.