The First Tuesday of Advent – Waiting for a Job
For many this season of the year is a struggling time. Whether we get depressed because of the shortening days in the Northern Hemisphere or with the uncertainty of our economic times. Today’s reflections focus on what many are struggling with at this time – the uncertainty of employment and the challenge of trusting that God will provide.
So for the first Tuesday of Advent check out the appropriate Advent scriptures for your tradition here and then spend some time meditating on these reflections.
The first reflection comes from Coe Hutchison the current Board Chair of Mustard Seed Associates. Coe is retired and answering God’s call on his life to become a pastor as a second career. Coe and his family live in Bothell, WA.
What am I waiting for this Advent season? It was a question answered almost immediately in a knee-jerk reaction—“A job!” I am an out-of-work, pastor-in-waiting. Seminary complete, internship finished, my heart aches to be a pastor. I just need to find a church that will allow me to exercise God’s call on my life. And I want it NOW! Is that too much to ask?
Perhaps it is—at least in that fashion.
The question of what I’m waiting for having been asked and answered, I then watched Christine Sine’s excellent Advent meditation videohttps://godspace-msa.com/2009/11/17/the-coming-of-the-lord-is-near-advent-meditation-video-2009/. Gosh, it wasn’t all about me! It wasn’t about me getting what I want. Slapped upside the head and driven again to my knees, I wonder if I am the only one that thinks first of myself and my own needs. Probably not. Once again, I find myself confessing to God that I am putting my own needs before those of others. Forgive me, Merciful Father, redeem me and transfigure me.
The video reminds me that what I am really waiting for is the redeeming Christ child. I wait for Jesus Christ, the Messiah. I wait for Jesus, who stands with me as I try to be patient, but more importantly is with those waiting for more basic needs. Jesus is with each person who waits for food, shelter, medical needs, or love from family and friends—all things I have in abundance. I wait also for relationship, renewed and rekindled relationship with Christ. Scripture tells me that one place I will find that relationship is in serving others who are waiting—in giving myself away to others. There is a wonderful sign on a door at Holden Village, a Lutheran camp in Washington State, which says it perfectly, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I woke and saw that life was service. I acted—and behold—service was joy.” Waiting for relationship—finding that relationship in serving others who are waiting. Thank you, Lord Jesus for opening my eyes and taking them off myself. Come, Lord Jesus, transfigure the world—transfigure me—with your love. Amen.
This second reflection comes from Judy Naegeli who has been the Seed Sampler coordinator at MSA for the last few years, but is now pursuing an editorial career in Seattle. She also works at REI and thinks she might someday write a book–subject unknown.
I’m currently looking for a job. Well, actually, I have work. For three years now I’ve been working at least two jobs at once, sometimes up to four with a couple volunteer gigs on top. My major income has come from a part-time retail job and the part-time Seed Sampler coordinator position at our beloved Mustard Seed Associates. But over the summer, I decided it was time to look for one full-time salaried job. I’ve been waiting about five months already, and there is no end in sight.
Obviously, I’m not alone in the job market. Seattle’s unemployment rate reached 9.3% last month. Not that I know about such things, but I think that’s pretty high. That means that almost 1 in 10 people I pass on the street is competing with me for the work that’s available. It’s a little scary to think about, especially since the field I’ve chosen seems to offer fewer jobs in Seattle than there are banana farming jobs in Norway. But in spite of all that, I’m going to be leaving MSA at the end of December.
That’s a significant part of my income that I am giving up. No one has said it, but I’m sure a few people I know are thinking that this is a foolish decision. They (and I) are asking if I can live on some editing gigs and an hourly wage during a slow retail season (January and February). But I believe God is telling me it’s time to move on, and so, as I wait for a “real” job to materialize, I am taking great comfort in God’s promise to provide:
31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6).
In the Advent story, there is a strange character that is also waiting on God’s promises. Simeon was promised that the Messiah would come during his lifetime. Imagine being given a promise like that and then having to wait. The salvation of your entire world is just on the horizon, but you can’t quite see it. You strain your eyes and stretch out your neck, but it’s still just out of sight. Imagine the urgency that would build, the doubt that would start creeping into your mind. You begin to wonder if you were crazy to believe. Maybe you missed it. Did God really mean for you wait this long in agony? Perhaps decades went by, but Simeon held onto God’s promise. And then he was rewarded with a joyful encounter with a little baby, who he knew in his heart was the Messiah that would change the whole world.
This year, Simeon’s story is a strong encouragement for me. But the more I reflect on it, the more I’m seeing a difference between us: unlike Simeon, I can reap the benefit of God’s promises now. It’s easy to believe that God will provide for me by getting me a well-paying job, in which case I would be living on the cusp of disappointment as I imagine Simeon did. But in my case, that is not the end goal of God’s promise. Maybe I will have to wait another 20 years for my dream job, but I can rest easy today because God will provide for my everyday needs every day. I can take joy every time I have enough to cover my rent. I can call it a fulfillment of God’s promise every time a paycheck comes through. And I can even count it God’s work when a request for financial assistance is approved.
God’s promises always come to pass, like Abraham and Sarah’s promise of a baby, like the Israelites’ promise of inhabiting their own land, like the promise of salvation. If God can do all that, God can definitely get me through a season of low income. So I will wait with joy for the job I want, knowing God has already fulfilled God’s promise, and live day by day not worrying about tomorrow.
Give us all, O Lord, our daily bread…