He’s here. Our newest grandson, River Grant Ryan, arrived on December 2, just a few minutes after midnight. We believed he would be born on 12/1 but I think he was waiting to have a cool birthdate, 12/2/2020. He’s beautiful and healthy, a pandemic baby from start to finish. His arrival sent a burst of joy across so many family and friendship circles. We all need some baby hope right now.
From the moment I learned that he existed, on a Zoom family meeting back in the spring, I said, “Who has a baby named River in a pandemic?” Now I know. God does. I was thrilled when I re-read one of my favorite scriptures from Isaiah and the connection to his name gave me goosebumps of hope. Behold, I will do a new thing. I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, RIVERS in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
When things look hopeless, our God specializes in the baby thing. God is a master at providing the most surprising, vulnerable, tiny glimpses of new life when we least expect it.
Advent is all about preparing ourselves for something new to be born to us in very personal ways. Theologian Richard Rohr reminds us that the Advent mantra is Come. Lord Jesus. (Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr )
The big theological word for it is Incarnation which means God made real, made physical and living among us. To pray Come Lord Jesus is asking for God to be known to us and for us to trust that the Big Picture, the Kingdom of God will be revealed. It is an act of humility and surrender to pray that short Advent prayer, Come Lord Jesus.
To pray that prayer means we also get ready for it to happen. We make space in our lives and our souls for it to happen. We watch, wait and scan the skies for starlight. We participate in Advent A Word living: staying Awake, Aware, Alert, Alive and Attentive. (Richard Rohr)
And, here’s the most important thing, we go ahead and live as if it is already a reality, that Jesus has been born, because he has. Rohr says incarnation happens over and over again every day whenever God’s reality and our real life physical reality meet. Creation is incarnation. Babies are incarnation. Acts of radical love and kindness are incarnation.
This week I was made aware of what I suspected was happening in our own backyard. The number of children in our own community facing food insecurity has doubled. It is one thing to see it on the news, cars lined up for food giveaways in other communities. But I heard it from a real live person I know and trust, the director of Nutrition Services in our local school district. The district has been feeding our families in need faithfully and in creative ways since the pandemic began and even before that. This week she sounded the alarm and asked for community assistance. She asked us to use our resources, our connections, our extra funds and provide food to these families. I’m a part of an organization called Connect and that is exactly our mission, to match community resources with children in need in our school district. We’ve been doing this work since 2011.
I absolutely hate the idea of children going to bed hungry. To even imagine it can make me cry. I always end up saying to myself, “Not on our watch.”
This week with the baby thing going on so vividly in our family’s life, with the Advent prayer, Come Lord Jesus, so fresh on my tongue, with this awareness that incarnation (God’s presence) happens whenever the physical and spiritual world meet, I see it so clearly.
To provide actual food to an actual family in need is as incarnational as it comes. To do that brings Christ/God’s presence straight into their homes and their bellies in a way that matters the most. Picture a hungry, truly hungry child taking a bite of the food you gave. Imagine the burning physical hole it fills. Imagine the emotional hole it fills. Someone cares. Someone helped. Incarnation.
Sometimes Jesus comes as we try to solve big issues about poverty and hunger. Sometimes Jesus comes as we change systems and institutions that cause injustice and need. Sometimes Jesus comes as basic needs are being met. Sometimes he shows up in a right now meal that is placed in front of someone very, very hungry. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
My husband and I bought six gift cards this week in honor of our three well-fed kids and our three healthy grandsons, including baby River. Who brings hope in a pandemic? God does. Who does the baby thing, incarnation, at a time like this? God does. Come Lord Jesus, come.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, co-founder of Connect/GCISD and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com to see other blogs, upcoming events and to learn about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts each Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. CST.
If you would like to help to directly feed a child in need in this season, you may purchase grocery gift cards in any denomination and they will go straight to these families in Grapevine Colleyville ISD. Please send them directly to GCISD Nutrition Services, 5800 Colleyville Blvd, Suite 108A, Colleyville, TX 76034, 817-251-5615. Questions? email firstname.lastname@example.org.