Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Waiting Room Is Our Room. (Advent)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Waiting Room Is Our Room. (Advent)

Article excerpt

Many of us go to the emergency room waiting room when we face "the last straw." On a recent visit to a hospital emergency room, I saw two stab wounds surrounding a hacking cougher. A woman was bent over in her thin blanket, clearly in stomach pain of unknown origin. An old man kept pacing, if you can call the way he walked pacing. It was clear that his back was killing him.

Hospitals are holy places. Prayers of joy go forth from the maternity ward--as much as prayers of agony are sent from those who wait in the emergency waiting room. Either way, whether glad or sad, the action from hospitals is more vertical than horizontal. Explanations are demanded from God--and often don't come.

At Christmas, no one wants to be in the hospital. But many are--and the silent, starless night, with the sterile shades drawn, can go long. Oddly, a hospital with its multitude of prayers heaven sent and its forced awareness of trouble is a great place to wait out the birth of Jesus. It may even show us a useful Advent attitude: The emergency of humanity may be larger than most of us, most days, realize.

Consider Mary. If she were pregnant today, she'd be getting prenatal care as number 847 in the emergency room. She would sit next to the kid with the badly pierced tongue, the mom with the two kids who was nonetheless too dizzy to stay home. The pregnant Mary would be waiting with the old man who forgot how to take his blood pressure and thinks it might be high. She, he, the kids and the mom would all wait until salvation of a simple kind would appear. …

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