on not singing carols yet

The other day I was mentioning how much I treasure the season of Advent. I especially appreciate the counter-cultural move of refraining from singing Christmas carols until the season of Christmas (the twelve days that begin with Christmas itself). At University Hill Congregation we begin singing carols on Christmas Eve. Before that we do not sing for joy at the birth of the Messiah. Before that we sing in longing, we sing in expectancy, we sing in preparation. In this way Advent reminds me of so much of life these days - longing, expectancy, preparation for the world and the lives God intends and promises. When I mentioned my delight in marking time during Advent a student at the theological school asked: "What do you say to those who want to sing Christmas carols during Advent."


on to pomalidomide

Last week I was in to see my hematologist for my fall appointment. I have been enjoying being free of chemotherapy and steroids since concluding treatment with Velcade in mid-February. During that time my free light chain count has remained quite stable. In the past month the free light chains have begun to rise once again. My doctor advised applying for the compassionate access program provided by Celgene for the recently approved (in Canada) chemotherapeutic drug pomalidomide (trade name Pomalyst). While it is approved for use in Canada it is not yet funded by our health insurance. As I have received the other available treatments (autologous stem cell transplant, lenalidomide and velcade) I am eligible to receive pomalidomide through the passionate access program of its manufacturer. The application was submitted this past Friday and approved yesterday.


longing for grace

Advent is, first and foremost, the great season of longing. Listen to the first words that the church will hear in this year’s lectionary cycle as the Christian Year begins: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1). Then, a few Sundays later, listen as earth’s longing cry is answered at the Jordan river: “And just as <Jesus> was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him” (Mark 1:10).

Advent is the season when we proclaim the surprising news that the future is not closed, that there is a way out of the quagmire, that earth’s great grief can yet be healed. The Christian Year opens on a world and a people whose prospects are bleak. Before we can sing of hope, peace, joy and love we first name the terrible cycles of despair, conflict, grief and hatred that hold us captive. Jumping too quickly and easily to the promises of God can weaken their power, reducing them to greeting card clich├ęs. If grace is to be named and known as amazing it must surely come in response to the honest, hard truth about the troubles that confront the soul, the neighbourhood and the planet.