youngest sister Pamela could talk a starving dog off a meat truck, sell ice
to an Inuit, pick your pocket and convince you that you really wanted to
give her that money but you just failed to think of it. Thus my other
two sisters and I make Pam, the youngest in the family, our family negotiator.
If we wanted something, especially from our father, we would go through Pam.
One year Pam decided that she wanted her Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve
rather on Christmas morning. Now this new fangled custom was gradually
taking root in Bayonne but my father, a staunch traditionalist, insisted
that Christmas take place on Christmas morning – besides he was obliged to
wish season’s greetings and cheer to the boys at the K of C up on 30th Street
(Knights of Columbus for those unfamiliar with this institution) and that
was where he would be seen for at least part of Christmas Eve.
Well, Pam began working on my father around the beginning of advent and we
all watched and listened. Normally Pam could land my father with a
few casts of her fishing rod but this took days, nay weeks. In fact
Pam never did convince my father that it would be better to receive our gifts
on Christmas Eve. Just as negotiations were breaking down my father
cut a deal. He could never say “NO” to his beloved Pamela so he decided
that she could have one gift on Christmas Eve. Pamela immediately dubbed
this her “preview” and was satisfied with her partial victory. Somehow
she forgot that her siblings might enjoy a preview too!
Every year Pam would get her preview and the rest of us would cash in the
next morning – only Pam got the preview as she was the only one willing to
step up to bat with my father pitching. My father could pitch and Pam
would swing at anything.
Our readings today give us two models for Advent waiting – the long term
and the short; the patient and the precipitous. Pam would have been
the first to be lowered down from the roof just for a “preview” from Jesus
(and she would have enlisted her brother and two sisters to do the lowering
too). But when it came to the entire Christmas wealth she had to take
the patience route as all her cajoling would not budge my father (except
for a little bit).
Isaiah talks of a transformation that will come in the future: total, spectacular
and cosmic. Luke is focused in his story on immediate returns—get in
there, get cured and head home for 10 frames of bowling at the K of
Advent is not about privileging one form of waiting above another but in
being able to discern when to use which kind of waiting, patient endurance
or abrupt insistence. Faith in Isaiah is to know the vision and wait
for its fulfillment. Faith in Luke is to push your way in and let Jesus
know what you need and when you want it.
Both are admirable in their right places.
Advent is the season of waiting. We need “previews,” hints of the bounty
and transformation to come, but we need to look to the larger vision too.
We need to walk through the desert and imagine the transformation and we
need to lower ourselves through the roof and ask for transformation NOW too.
Thank God for negotiators like Pam.
And Thank God for Previews!