Mikayla Kopp is an intern at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church and St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This unique combination of working with a congregation as well as at a hospital has her thinking about Advent in new ways this year.

The season of Advent involves a focus on waiting and Mikayla is helping her congregation to live into the season through preaching, teaching, and service.

“I try to emphasize that we are waiting for the culmination of joy in the incarnation of Christ but still acknowledge that we do this waiting in a dark and sometimes (actually more often than not) scary world. We acknowledge at St. Stephen’s that there are many hungry people in the world but we enter into the waiting with them and try to help through programs and service like Operation Backpack where we pack sacks of food for local elementary kids to take home each weekend to get them through until they can get school lunch the next week.”

At the hospital Mikayla accompanies people who are waiting in many different ways. “Often times I am called to accompany someone who is ill or dying or to wait through that with their families. Sometimes this waiting is even extended through grief and I don’t always get to witness the culmination of joy in their lives, if it even comes for them. Sometimes medications are adjusted, and they find relief and sometimes I get to experience joy with their families after they have died and are not suffering anymore.”

The advent season brings with it extra responsibilities and challenges. In the midst of the busyness of the season Mikayla has been taking time for self-care, prayer, and reflection. “I enjoy making Christmas gifts for my family and friends. This year, I am intentionally giving myself time to sit and crochet. And as I create something for someone, I pray for them.”

One of the joys of internship is experiencing how your congregation celebrates the Advent Season. “As a part of our Wednesday night services, we are inviting members of the congregation to give reflections on each of the themes for the week (hope, joy, peace, love).  We have a member who works for the Department of Corrections. He shared about how he finds and maintains peace in his work.  And because almost everything at St. Stephen’s revolves around food, we have Wednesday night soup suppers.  This is extra time for us to gather as a community to celebrate or lament with each other. We had a big group of members go caroling at one of the senior living facilities in town and at St. Luke’s.  This is our way of trying to spread a little of the Advent joy we experience to others.”