I love Advent. It’s probably my favorite liturgical season. I love the waiting, the hope, the anticipation. I love the way it looks forward to a coming kingdom, a world as it should be. I love the way it challenges and contradicts. I’m never entirely sure what to do with John, but I love him for his proclamation and his questions. I love the Advent candles and the music. I love the blue paraments and my blue stole.
And, with the work I do in Cairo, Advent has never been more clear to me. Anticipation. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.
I’ve noticed it this past week in the courtyard, as the Adult Education students gather before their final exams. They sit in small groups, with books open in front of them, reviewing, trying to get in those last precious moments of studying before heading in to take the exams that might result in a certificate that might give them a better chance at a job or make a stronger case for resettlement.
I notice it outside the Resettlement and Legal Aid office, as people wait their turn to meet with one of the legal advisors. In the stories I hear from the legal staff, who meet with hundreds of people during the year and help them make their cases for resettlement. In the hopes that this will be the year, that something will make their case strong enough to be resettled in Europe, or the US, or Canada, or Australia.
I notice it in the desperate prayers for work, for health, for children. For families that are separated to be reunited, or at least kept safe in the meantime.
I notice in the ways the women I meet with for Bible study talk about the hope they place in Christ. The ways that they are carried by the promise of God-with-us. The way that faith is palpable, deep, strong, and contagious. The way they read the Advent passages about God’s vision for the world–where lion and lamb lay down together, where streams flow in the wilderness–and see visions of peace that they so desperately hope and long for.
In some ways, this work keeps us perpetually in Advent. Hoping, waiting, watching, anticipating. We wait and hope with and for particular clients, but we also wait and hope for the sake of the world. I think we’d all agree that we’d be glad to be out of jobs if it meant that peace and justice reigned in this place and in the places from where our clients come. If people had what they needed–clothing, food, shelter, jobs, safety, security. If children who were sick could get the care they needed. If families didn’t go to bed hungry and cold at night. We’re waiting, watching, working for that to be reality.
We, of course, don’t do it alone. We work with a number of organizations here in Cairo. But we also rely on the work of people in places like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria. We wait for world leaders to work toward policies that bring justice and work toward peace for all people. We hope for a day when people, all people, can feel safe where ever they are.
In this season of Advent, thank you for your prayers and support. For the ways that you work for peace and justice where ever you are. As we wait and watch and hope, may we be courageous to work toward a world where peace reigns, where expectations are interrupted, and none of God’s people are forced to live in fear or neglect or poverty. May it be so.