Ann Weems in her book Kneeling in Bethlehem writes a poem entitled”Yesterday’s Pain.”

Some of us walk into Advent

tethered to our unresolved yesterdays

the pain still stabbing

the hurt still throbbing

It’s not that we don’t know better;

it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.

On the way to Bethlehem,

will you give us a hand?

As I approach this advent season, I wonder how many of us have experienced the unresolved yesterday? Hopes dashed, dreams deferred, relationships that were meant to last a lifetime instead cut ruthlessly short. Each broken promise we’ve met or made yells out to us that our lives are fragile at best and at worst are hopelessly broken.

So much hurts and wounds both inflicted and endured that we can’t stand up by ourselves anymore. The tragedy is that when we’re honest with ourselves we cannot escape these yesterdays and these wounds really do make us who we are.

But isn’t that the work of Advent – to show us that we can’t, no matter how hard we try, stand up by ourselves? It’s tough, but for Christians this is the ultimate good news story: stop trying to make it on your own. You need someone else, there are no self made men and women, and together we can become much more than what we could by ourselves.

And so we are rescued by a baby in a manger. Christ enters our life to help us stand up and walk. But it’s not just some imagined presence that comes along side of us, or wish fulfillment, or some grand idea or positive energy that frees us from ourselves and the wounds we cause. Rather it is the living presence of Christ in the community that makes our standing possible.

In many ways this is the over-riding mission of the Broome County Council of Churches. We engage in Jail Re-entry because we know that those who come through the prison system need a helping hand in order to make it in the community. We come along side those who need a wheelchair ramp or food or a helping hand, because we know that someday we will be hungry or we will need some food or we will need some help. By working together to help those in need, we ensure our own survival when times get hard and we need someone else.

And somehow, in the midst of our lives, a child is born, and the world is never the same.

Won’t you give us a hand?

Peace and towels,

Joe Sellepack


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