Gena Ruocco Thomas has written for several Christian publications, and published her first book, A Smoldering Wick: Igniting Missions Work with Sustainable Practices, in 2016. Her book, Separated by the Border: A Birth Mother, a Foster Mother, and a Migrant Child’s 3,000-mile Journey, unpacks the story of reuniting her Honduran foster daughter with her family after separation at the US border. Gena’s most recent book, Alisa and The Coronavirus, is a self-published interactive children’s book, based on conversations she and her family had, especially those with her four-year-old on how to deal with emotions surrounding life changes affected by the virus. She is currently working on another book about God’s great abundance.
Advent holds so much for me. It is a season of waiting. It is a gift. It is a poem and a song; it is a mindset. Advent is hope, it is space to hope. It is a reframing of what capitalism has wrought from us. It is so very much.
Isaiah 45:2-3 says:
‘I will go before
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who calls you by name,
Am the God of Israel.’
I’m waiting for the crooked places to be made straight. I am waiting for wars to be no more, both those fought regionally and those fought theologically. For those in power to see how their greedy actions often infect others’ lives, livelihoods, and quality of life. I’m waiting for healing to come in all its fullness, both in the lives of my family members and close friends who are suffering physically, and in the lives of those who do not think they need healing, yet harm so many around them. I am waiting for a healthcare system that does not require exorbitant amounts of money from those already suffering from sickness, while insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical companies make so much profit.
I am waiting for the gates of bronze to be broken in pieces. I’m waiting for the self-appointed gatekeepers of Christianity to repent and realize they do not need to defend Emmanuel, and that violently defending our Prince of Peace actually makes them an enemy of the Good News. I am waiting for my LGBTQIA+ siblings to no longer be unwelcome or only welcome if fill-in-the-blank at Church. I am waiting for so many of us to see how much we can learn about Christ from those we say cannot bear His name. When the gates of bronze are broken, we begin to realize the castle is as much beyond the gate as it was behind it.
I am waiting for the iron bars to be cut. I am waiting for the criminalization of those seeking a better life to no longer be a present reality. I am waiting for the borders of our nation and the borders of other nations to no longer serve as walls of privilege, keeping human beings out and separating families. I am waiting for our nation to no longer hold the highest incarceration rate in the world. I’m waiting for Black families to no longer be separated because of – nor raise their children in fear of – our modern Jim Crow laws. I am waiting for gun control laws. For the awakening of so many of us who call ourselves Christians, that our own self-serving ideas of violently protecting ourselves are actually quite criminal, and Christ has much yet to show us on being nonviolent.
I am waiting for the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places. I am waiting for Advent and how it reminds us that darkness can bring much-needed silence, resilient hope, and utter goodness to replace a season of busyness, commercialism, and productivity that currently ushers in the remembrance of the birth of Christ – who came to trample empires and place the government on his own shoulders. I am waiting for the American Church, and American Christians, to mirror Advent more than we mirror empire itself.
I wait to hear my name on God’s lips. Advent is the song that reminds me Light is come on its own, but also in me and Light is on its way, both separately distinct from me and simultaneously within me.
Marlena Graves received her M.Div. from Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, N.Y., and is pursuing her Ph.D. in American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH., where she is researching the influence American culture has on Evangelicals’ view of immigration, race, and poverty.
Marlena has written for a wide variety of venues like Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics Blog (now CT Women), Womenleaders.com, and Our Daily Bread. She has also written for Think Christian, Faith Street, Relevant and other publications. Marlena is a former member and board member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Currently, she is a board member of Evangelicals 4 Justice, works in partnership with Freedom Road, and belongs to INK: A Creative Collective. As a Puerto Rican influenced by many streams of the faith, she feels as if she dwells on the borderlands of Evangelicalism.
Her book, A Beautiful Disaster, was published in June of 2014, and The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself, was published in July 2020.
I suppose I am waiting for the world to be made right again. For Christians to behave like Jesus. For the U.S. to make reparations to Native Americans and African Americans; for all the evil and violence committed against them, especially through murder, rape, bloodshed, and theft. We committed similar atrocities against the Chinese and Japanese and others. Now we are targeting Mexicans and others south of the American border while still rendering African Americans second-class citizens.
I am also waiting to see my mami again – but not just yet, because I have more life to live. She died on May 27, 2021 from metastatic breast cancer.
I see that I have much hope deferred.
I will not see any of the above-mentioned come to fruition in my lifetime on this planet.
This Advent, I am realizing more and more there is very little I can do. I cannot change the world, make grand pronouncements, or render definitive judgments against people and nations to make things right the way in which I think they should be made right. I am not an impartial or completely righteous judge. But God is.
Corruption in the American Church and in the United States is persistent. I study these things in my Ph.D. program. What I do not know is if they are at an all-time high. We have made progress in technological developments but not in integrity, morality, ethics, or godliness. Our nation’s soul corruption is not new, the U.S. was corrupt back in the olden days when there was prayer in school and when segregation was legal.
This Advent, I realize again just how little I am. My life is a drop in the sea of humanity. But this reality does not mean that my life is insignificant or meaningless.
I am human.
This is the one life I have. The people or experiences that have been a part of me have shaped me, made me who I am. None of them are insignificant. With the earth, I groan as I wait for God to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). And yet remember that I am participating right now in making all things new in my own spheres in ways in which I am seldom, if at all, aware.
This Advent 2021, I wait on God to reorient me amid loss. I have lost my mother and several friends – young and old. And so, I am impoverished. I wait for reconciliations and reparations that are unlikely to happen in my lifetime. But I wait with an enlarged perspective, a more realistic perspective of who God is and who I am. I await to see what will come from this new perspective, this new reality in which I live.
I wait for Christ to suddenly appear. I know He will not disappoint.