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.
‘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
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.