Advent can include smiling. Apparently.

“Why are you so melancholy?” my friend asked.

I’ve known her for years. I had just walked into her hospital room.

“I’ve been here for a month. I hear those prayers on the chaplain channel every week. You are always a little sad.”

“Can I sit down,” I asked. She nodded.

“Two reasons, I guess. First, the average stay here is 4 days. So I don’t expect people to hear me that often.”

She shook her head. “It’s not exactly my fault,” she said.

“I know. Second, there are always people getting bad news about their health. Every day. I don’t want to be the ‘If we would just trust, everything will be fine’ person. There are enough of those. I want to remember that God is with us not to always heal but to weep with us, too.”

She laughed. “So you’re trying to fix bad teaching by being sad?”

“Yes,” I said. “If I’m the first person that’s told them that a bad health outcome isn’t the judgment of God on their prayer life, I want to be sure they have at least one.”

“But doesn’t that get a little hard for those of us who hear you all the time?” she said. “We worry about you, that your days must never be merry and bright.”

We sat quietly for a bit. She wasn’t wrong. We see all the death in the hospital, all the bad accidents, most of the strokes and heart attacks. And we see the families of those people, with the fear and the overwhelming grief. In those moments, I know better than to promise that everything will be fine. For them, “fine” means fixed. And some bodies won’t be fixed.

“It’s Advent, though,” she whispered as if she could hear my thoughts. “The recollection of the bigger story is that death is part of life and that God is with us in both.”

She laughed. “And, as much as there is a time for sadness, some of us need you to laugh with us, too.”