Thinking nothing of it, I slid into the chair at the high-top and took a sip of my beer and smiled at him. “You look so serious! Are we having a serious talk tonight?” My runner’s high was definitely affecting my mood at the moment. We were a week away from Thanksgiving and the cusp of Advent. I had quit my job waiting tables almost two months prior after we paid off loans and bought a new roof for our home (in addition to a myriad of other things that kept popping up).
“It’s serious,” came the answer. And then came the part that would set the tone for our entire Advent. “My position at work is being eliminated as of January 1.”
Even though I was floored by this news (he’s been with his company 28 1/2 years), I also had this odd peace about me, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t the runner’s high or the beer giving it to me. He was offered a generous severance and the opportunity to look for a different position within his company. I was certain everything would work out just fine, and we set to praying the St. Joseph Novena over and over again until he had a new position.
It wasn’t until we hit December until I started feeling any anxiety about it, although, even then, it was slow to come and not consistent. But as we got closer to mid-December, it was hard to get into that gaudete mood. He had an offer (with a bit of a pay cut, but with great opportunities for advancement), and I had an interview and screening for an interpreting position with a local branch of a video relay company. We waited to see how things would end, and we prayed in the meantime for peace and clarity.
I have to admit that I struggled a lot with the peace part, even as we gained more clarity about the situation and choices that we had. Once I finished my screening, we talked about a game plan and the different positions offered to my husband at his current company. That position with the decrease in pay is one that will make him so much happier at work. He likes the team. He likes the work involved. And, I have to say, I want him to be happy at work. So we decided that if I didn’t pass that screening, I would go back to working as a waitress for a while. And we continued to pray the St. Joseph Novena.
Advent slogged along, and I struggled with every bit of it. I felt like I was in this weird limbo, waiting to see what would happen, trying desperately to trust in God and not to worry about the future.
I found out that I didn’t pass my interpreter screening, and I can’t re-screen for 12 months. The agency has offered to help me work towards that day so I can pass, which is a huge blessing. Interpreting is the one job I’ve always loved, and I miss it. But 15 years of not doing it and practicing very little has taken its toll, so I am headed back to the restaurant again.
Advent hasn’t been easy this year, and it’s felt a bit more penitential than usual. I went to Midnight Mass, fresh off running a fever, with so little of the usual Christmas joy that it was hard to believe it was really time to welcome the Christ Child. I wondered if I could still feel the joy and wonder of the day after the month we’d just been through.
But then the cantor stood at the ambo and began to chant The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the Roman Martyrology, and my eyes welled up with tears of joy and happiness. As he finished the final lines, the instruments began the introduction to “O Come, O Ye Faithful,” and everyone in the church came to our feet to welcome the Lord. My heart swelled as I realized that it doesn’t matter if my Advent was hard, or if life is hard, as long as I have Jesus.
Christ is our Hope.
But the hope of Christ is not the same as the hope of the world, and I think that we sometimes forget that. We hope for worldly comforts, but forget that this isn’t the purpose of our lives. This isn’t to blithely dismiss people’s problems! But my going back to waiting tables for a while is not the end of the world. The end (or delay) of my personal plans, perhaps, but not the end of the world.
When plans get derailed – when life throws you that idiomatic curveball – it’s important to remember the real message of Christmas: our hope is Christ. Our hope is the baby in the manger, who comes, not as a conquering king, but as a humble child. His family had plans, too, and I’m sure they didn’t include fleeing to a foreign country to hide from a murderous king.
Our hope goes through the Cross, as hard as that is to accept. And accept it, we must. This world is not our true home, and our ultimate hope lies beyond it. Beyond disappointment and tears. Beyond the anxieties of life. Beyond job losses and death.
Keep your eyes on Christ. Hope in the Lord, for He never abandons you, even in the most difficult of times.
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson