Advent | Day 11

Wednesday, December 7

  • Psalms 38, 119.25-48
  • Amos 8.1-14
  • Revelation 1.17-2.7
  • Matthew 23.1-12

Every once in awhile, I’d roll down the window, as I was driving about 55 or 60 mph, and let the cold air rush in against my face. I’d pretty much lost track of time at this point, winding my way through those hills. The Scottish countryside was beautiful and barren in late November, and I had nowhere in particular to go. I was just driving.

It had been precisely two years since Mom died, though that death itself had taken three and a half years to occur from the day when we found out that she had cancer. Cancer—a word that stings to hear, to say, or to even type. It destroys tissue; it destroys organs, and it destroys lives.

I woke up that morning in 2006 in Scotland, where I was in the middle of a graduate program, over 4000 miles away from where I’d last seen my mother lying in a hospital bed. Somehow, though, that presence of impending loss was no more distant from me at that moment than it had been on the very day of her death.

When I was young, I never understood the importance of anniversaries, of marking of those occasions important to one’s life. After my grandmother died, I remember Mama being upset on Grandma’s birthday and on other days that would have been important to Grandma’s life. Now, somehow, I understood the necessity of marking those occasions. They’re not options. They remind you against forgetting.

The year Mom died, she died on the very first day of Advent. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most cheerful of seasons for my family that Christmas. I didn’t exactly go through that Advent season hopeful at the impending life of the Son of God that was preparing to break through into our lives again.

I stopped in some small village for lunch that day in 2006 and had a very forgettable warm meal, got back into my car, and headed back to St Andrews. As I wound my way back through those hills, my thoughts themselves seemed to take a turn—I reminded myself that even in loss, there is joy in remembering, in celebrating the life that each of us lives in the time that God grants us. In two years after the death of a loved one, you learn how to mourn, but you learn something about the tenacity of life as well.

For me, that’s what Advent has come to signify—the sheer tenacity of life to break through in the midst of strife. As we look outside our windows and we drive our cars down the road, we see barren trees and harsh landscapes, and we think about how life, while seemingly defeated, is merely dormant now, struggling to be born into this world as something beautiful, something like a baby born to a peasant family many years ago.

Donovan McAbee
Assistant Professor, School of Religion

You can access an online version of the 2011 Advent Guide (presented annually be Belmont’s School of Religion) at:




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