“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14
Hospital rooms have a way of bringing heaven and earth together. Hopes and fears collide when a doctor walks in the room with news of an unexpected and unwanted diagnosis. Dreams give way to disappointment when a nurse announces, “It’s time to begin hospice. They will walk with you through this journey.” In those moments of sorrow and disappointment, hospital rooms often become sacred spaces that hold open a door to the mystery of God’s eternal love.
When a close family member, an active woman of seventy-seven, was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2015, our entire family was in shock. We were devastated. Mitsuko, the woman who walked beside us for over fifty years, was the last person any of us expected to go first. A Japanese survivor of World War II, Mitsuko denounced her Shinto faith and gave her life to Jesus Christ as a young woman when she first heard message of the Gospel from missionary families working in Japan. Her faith transformed her entire life and enabled her to find the beacon of light in the darkness of every storm.
Within moments of her diagnosis, Mitsuko’s faith once again filled her with a quiet confidence, even when others were overcome with tears. She quietly gave thanks for the certainty of hope that “in life and in death we belong to God.” She trusted her future in Christ, the One who came to earth as the Child of Bethlehem. And she was fully convinced of His promise to hold us both in our earthly mourning and in our eternal morning. A hospital room became hallowed ground, a sacred space where hope diminished the darkness of disappointment.
Advent is an invitation to a journey marked by hope. It begins with a longing for the assurance of God’s steadfast love, and it beckons us toward a cold, dark room where “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met in the Christ of Bethlehem. Each candle we light during this journey of Advent assures us that any room on earth can become holy ground where heaven and earth meet.