category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 7

Saturday,  December 5

Ezekiel 36:24–28; Mark 11:27–32

Pausing was her only symptom. A mother’s keen eye noticed it. Her once active baby began taking “short breaks” while crawling, as if to catch her breath. The diagnosis was grim. The severe effects of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy left her child in heart failure. There were no choices. Fourteen–month–old Gianna Paniagua needed a heart transplant. Without one, she would die. On October 23, 1992, at New York–Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City, one patient died. One lived. Little Gianna received a new heart.

There is nothing simple nor easy about receiving a new heart. There is pain. There is dying. There is mourning. There is death. There is loss. But, out of death, there is life. It is, in the words of Gianna Paniagua, now a 29 year–old artist, “making something good out of something dark.”

It is in the darkest of days that God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel. Jerusalem has fallen into the hands of the Babylonians. God’s people now find themselves eking out a harsh existence in exile. The relational distance from God, Israel’s God, is greater than the physical distance from the Holy City of Jerusalem. These days are dark, painful, and fraught with grief, loss, death, and dying. Can anything good rise from the dark depths of people diseased by sin?

God speaks words of hope, healing, and restoration through Ezekiel, one of Israel’s own who finds himself eking out a harsh existence in exile. “A new heart I will give you, and new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you …” (Ezekiel 36:26–27a). God promised to “make something good out of something dark.”

But the people of Israel had to wait. They had to sit with and in the darkness, the pain, the dying, the mourning, and death itself. They had to wait for the dawn to crack open the deep darkness of night.

Here we are. We are God’s children, and we are sitting with and in the darkness of Advent. We are waiting, impatiently, for the Light of Life to crack open the deep darkness of night. Our hearts are breaking, aching, and pleading for something good to come out of the dark.

It is for the Light of Life that we must sit and wait and watch. And the Light will come. Mark’s Gospel reminds us that this Light will come in the person of Jesus, whose power to create new hearts and new lives flows from God the Father. It is for Jesus that we wait. We must sit and wait and watch. We must sit a little longer with and in the darkness, the pain, the dying, the mourning, and death itself. Jesus will come. When he does, something good will come out of something dark. Our hearts will be changed, and we will become more like the children of God we were created to be.

Kheresa W. Harmon
Director of Admissions for the School of Divinity
Minister to Children, First Baptist Church, Forest City

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