November 15, 2020
Do not be afraid! Though the journey is uncertain, we are not the first to walk it. Though we may not be able to see the way, the One who sees all and knows all guides us. Though we do not know the challenges we will face or perhaps even what the destination will look like, we are not alone. The God of steadfast love accompanies us. God will not let your foot slip. God will protect you on your journeys – whether going or coming – from now until forever from now (Psalm 121: 3 & 8).
Our Advent theme this year is “An Uncertain Journey,” and it feels like this could be the PG-version tag-line for the year 2020. The amazing thing is that as we look at scripture, we find uncertain journeys all over the place and perhaps none more than as we journey towards Christmas, towards Bethlehem, towards the manger.
We have heard these Advent stories so many times that we often forget that the prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist foretell the coming of a Messiah without the benefit of 20/20 vision that we have. We hear their prophecies knowing the stories of the Messiah who is to come, but they foretell the Messiah’s coming in the midst of great uncertainty. They prophesy the light and leadership Christ into spaces of shadow, struggle, suffering, and injustice. I think of Mary – it is so easy to see her faithfulness, her joy, her strength. But what about the uncertainty? She wasn’t married. And even if she had been, pregnancy is itself always uncertain as is being a parent as any of us who has experienced infertility, miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of a child can attest. Each person in the Nativity story faces such great uncertainty. There is a reason that “Do not be afraid!” is repeated again and again in the telling of this story. Because nothing is certain. And in the face of uncertainty, we are indeed afraid.
And yet, in and through it all, there are the threads of hope, peace, joy and love! There is the resounding affirmation of God’s presence – not just from afar or in our breath but as a HUMAN PERSON, a baby no less. There are these incredible examples of faithfulness and trust, the power of dreams and angels. There is light that shines in the shadows and the shadows do not overcome it.
Friends, I know it feels, perhaps, like this year is not really Advent. Like this year we will not really have Christmas. But I believe that as we experience uncertainty and fear this season, these stories of hope and faithfulness, these stories of ordinary people finding peace will touch our hearts and our lives in new ways. I believe we may discover anew that God is and has always been with us on our uncertain journey. And that truly, it is in uncertainty that our faith and trust grow. It is in uncertainty that we can experience what it is like to lean into the embrace of a loving God.
In hope and faith,