Sermonett/Advent 2 Reflection- John 1:1-5

Last week for Advent Fellowship night, I told you a story about my last bit of walking along the Appalachian Trail. This week, I would like to share with you a story about a different kind of advent walking. One of the floors that I was in charge of during my summer as a hospital chaplain in Richmond Virginia, was the bone marrow transplant floor. It was a floor nicknamed by the staff as the “hopeless floor.” If there ever was a floor in the hospital that had beds just for darkness, it may be that floor. They called it the hopeless floor, because a majority of patients that get bone-marrow transplants are at the end of their ropes. They have already tried dozens of treatments, and this is often a floor of last gasps.
Now, there was a woman on this floor who paged for a chaplain to come down every day that she was there. And so I would go. In the beginning, we just sat in silence. She would stare at me, and I would listen. Occasionally she would talk about her bone cancer, or about what new thing they had strung up on “her friend Clyde.” This is what she lovingly called the metal pole that was constantly attached to her arm by several tubes. Clyde had maybe seven bags on him at one point, all dripping away various medicines and fluids, in the hope of getting her on her feet again. One day, before I could even sit down when I came to visit, all at once, she got a gleam in her eye and said to me: “Chaplain, today I want to go for a walk.” I told her that I like walking. And so, I helped her up, and she leaned heavily on Clyde, but she stood. And we went for a walk, down to one end of the hall of the tiny hospital wing, and back to the other. Me, Laura, and Clyde wheeling silently beside us. This became our routine, every day I would stop by for a walk with Laura and Clyde. We paced countless times up and down the hopeless floor of the hospital, and we talked about life. Eventually, after two or three laps Laura would get tired and we would hobble back to her room. But it felt like every day we walked a little farther.
It was during one of these walks, that she paused and asked me “Chaplain, I need you to teach me to pray. I am afraid that I do not know any of the right words. You are holier than me, and so you can do it. But I do not know how.” I was taken aback. I said to her, Laura. You have lived thorough bone cancer! You got a bone marrow transplant and you still have enough humour to go on walks with Clyde and me! Do you see anyone else going for strolls on this floor? Laura, the fact that we can share in these walks alone is better than any prayer I know. What could I possibly have to teach you about prayer? Sure, I may know the words to a few of them, but you don’t need to know the words. You’ve already got them written on your heart. Prayer is carrying you every step along this hallway. In fact, YOU are the one who has taught ME about prayer. For I didn’t truly understand what prayer was until you invited me on a walk.
Laura let Clyde roll on ahead of her a couple of inches. She took my hand, and said “Thank you.” “Thank YOU,” I told her, “I had nothing to do with it. For this hallway is Holy ground. God leans close here, and Clyde is not the only companion we have had while walking these halls. God has met us in every step along the way. The Word to pray was with God, sent to be with us, from the very beginning.”
And all of you here can know this feeling: that even something as simple as getting up in the morning can be a profound prayer. Am I right? Waking up can be hard! It is enough of a prayer that you all made it here tonight, sharing in fellowship and the company of one another. That is how God meets us in prayer this advent. Even if we do not know the words, even if we cannot pray ourselves, even if we do not know how to pray: God leans closest to the earth on all the hopeless floors of all of our hospitals. God walks with us in our dark and thin places. A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.