1. Share (or reflect upon) a time when someone showed you unexpected tenderness. How did their kindness impact you?
2. The author asks if perhaps a time of blessing and gifts is already here; what are the blessings that you perceive around you? Are there gifts that you are still waiting to receive—or still waiting to give?
3. What does it look like to be tender with a whole city—or a whole nation, or the whole world?
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. - Isaiah 40:2 (NRSV)
Once on a cold winter night I ended up back in New Haven after running away from a man and a marriage. September 1, 2018, we would have been married 50 years. We married in 1968, the year of so many fifties, after hitchhiking back from Chicago, the morning of our wedding. We had just been released from the Chicago football stadium where those of us who had protested the Democratic convention were held for a while, in time to nurse our bruised heads and broken hearts.
When we finally got to the wedding site, the man who met me later at the train station was waiting there. He knew where we had been but our parents did not. My soon-to-be husband’s mother greeted me with hands on her expansive German hips and said, “Don’t tell me you have been sleeping together.” John, our officiant and campus chaplain, suggested, tenderly, that we were late for our own wedding.
That same chaplain, as the marriage ended, met me at the New Haven train station. He saw the look on my face. He took my gloves out of my purse and tenderly put them on my hands. We walked out of the train station silently.
All three of our families were Lutheran: mine, his, and the chaplain’s. We always prayed before we ate, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let thy gifts to us be blessed.”
John taught me to be an activist. But even more he taught me to be tender, by being tender.
Is it possible that the new time of blessing and gifts is already here—in our ability to be tender with each other and to be tender with Jerusalem?
Come, to us, especially as we bruise in love and life. Come tenderly as Advent already here. Amen.