Be careful what you wish for (Advent Book Club 18 Dec)

(I’m taking part in the Twitter #adventbookclub, reading “Beginnings and Endings” by Maggi Dawn. Some days there will just be a simple tweet; other times a blog post for longer thoughts.)

We started the story of Zechariah (Luke chapter 1) earlier this month, noting an apparent discrepancy: that a blameless couple could be childless, in a culture where this would be seen as a sign of God’s disfavour. Now this is being resolved; Zechariah’s prayers for a child have been answered, after many years – and he can’t believe it.

Maggi Dawn describes what can happen when we have hoped and longed for something for a long time: we learn to live with unfulfilled hope, and that way of life may even become comfortable. This can be positive; as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.”

So what happens when we do arrive, when our hopes are fulfilled, our prayers answered? It may be that we can’t actually cope with it, that we are so used to living with hope that we wouldn’t know what to do. When Jesus met the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5), who had been sick for 38 years, he asked “would you like to get well?” We may think this is a stupid question, but it’s really a serious one.

There’s a saying: “be careful what you wish for; you may get it”. Having our prayers answered takes us to a new situation, and probably with new responsibilities. For Zechariah and Elizabeth, it would mean the upheaval of a baby in the house, when perhaps they’d settled into a comfortable routine.

A hope shared by many is that of freedom; freedom from poverty, from oppression, from guilt, from illness; but what would that mean? One of my favourite books in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series (though it’s hard to choose) is “Going Postal”. In it, one of the characters says, “no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all others are based.”

As a sufferer of a chronic illness, a major hope and prayer is to be cured. But am I ready to face the consequences of being cured? And if I heard this promised,  even from an angel, would I believe it?

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