The Rev. Patrick Blaney
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Against All Odds

Some years ago a friend of mine experienced the personal hell of having her son  gravely injured following an 1100 foot fall down the backside of a mountain.  He was a scout leader on a training hike to achieve a higher level of competence when the shale he was walking on gave way and he slid down the steep cliff.  Brain injured, with multiple fractures he laid on a ledge for hours until search and rescue were able to recover him and transport him to hospital where he lay in a coma in the intensive care unit while the medical team fought to save his life.

Days crept by without noticeable improvement.  The doctors wanted to remove the catheter in his brain that measured brain swelling to prevent infection.  His mother, fuelled by her own inner urgings, convinced the doctors to agree to a 48 hour extension before finally removing the tube.  Family and friends rallied to provide whatever support they could.  A short time later, against all odds, this badly injured young man gradually began to recover.  Against all odds, recovery occurred after a long and arduous rehabilitation.

Against all odds a newborn infant was discovered alive in the rubble of a hospital 8 days after the hospital collapsed in an earthquake.  The little girl survived and thrived  “Against all odds”

Against all odds a gold earring of great sentimental value that I lost on a public sidewalk was discovered 3 months later wedged between the cement slabs. 

Against all odds.

How often have we heard this phrase?  Think for a moment.  Each of you has a similar story in your own lives where “Against all odds” the seeming impossible outcome became possible. 

Two thousand years ago a baby was born in the most humble circumstances imaginable.  His parents were refugees during his early life but as an adult, “Against all odds” this man changed the course of history by his teachings of compassion, love and healing.  Against all odds, despite the Roman occupation, brutality and disease that existed at that time…this man brought Hope to a troubled world and revealed God’s power through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is that Hope that inspires us during Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of the infant Jesus.    For a short time each year, we are invited to focus on that little baby and all the inherent promises of the manger as we think about the joys and sorrows of our lives and our “hope” that the joys will be sustained while circumstances that are presently broken will become whole and healed once again.

That Jesus was born is a historical fact.  The events around his birth are indeed interesting but it is the gift of the Christ Light into the world that we annually prepare to receive during Advent.

Advent has its origins in the early church when the exiled tribes of Israel prayed for God to bring them home.  Today, while there are still exiled people in the world praying to be brought home, there are also many more of us who feel exiled from the joy of Christmas by circumstances in our lives.

We can all feel separated from joy when:

….when we are grieving, discouraged and in deep emotional pain…..

….when we don’t fit in or we feel isolated from meaningful human contact…

….when homelessness and poverty separate people from the mainstream of our culture…..

…..when broken relationships separate us from families or friends….

….when illness of body or mind isolates us

…when we feel hopeless and cannot see a way forward.

We have all experienced or are experiencing some of these circumstances at one time or another. In different ways we all need the miracle of healing to come home to ourselves and fully receive the gift that was brought to the world at Christmas.

Advent is our time to comprehend God’s promises and hope for that miracle. It is our time to fully receive the gift that was so freely given.  But how do we do that?

Culturally we have transformed Christmas into a consumer driven frenzy of shopping and gift giving that is coupled with unrealistic expectations of angelic children, family harmony and a Martha Stewart level of entertaining and home décor.   Peace on Earth should obviously follow! But it doesn’t.  Instead, after Christmas it’s not uncommon to heave a giant sigh of exhausted relief and thank God it’s all over. 

There is a better way.

Against all odds of the Christmas busyness and mayhem, make time for daily contemplative prayer.  It is the most important thing we can do to receive the gift of the Christ light.  Promise God 10 to 20 minutes a day and then show up.

Sit in silence, be still, breathe deeply and slowly and feel the calm that will overcome you.   Thank God for all circumstances of your life: the good, the bad and the ugly and ask for healing in a way that is best for everyone.    Surrender yourself and all that troubles you to God.  Open your heart and sit quietly in his presence.  Close your prayer time with gratitude and strive each day to be a servant of God’s will for your life. 

Silent, surrendered, calm and still.   If you do this 10 – 20 minutes a day your experience of Christmas will be forever changed.

During this Advent season and beyond: hope for the impossible. Joyfully celebrate the moments both expected and unexpected. With peace in your heart trust that if the answer to your prayers is “not now” that a greater plan is at work.   Then the next time someone says “Against all odds” smile and know that is what people say when they have lost site of the miracles and the promises of Christmas brought by the Christ Child.

This is the good news of Advent this day.  Blessed Be.

 By Carolyn Iker