This year, in the midst of all the challenges we are facing in our communities, nation and world, I have found Advent to be particularly meaningful. As I spoke with Duane Shable, Bernie Depperschmidt's son-in-law, to prepare for his wife Debbie's funeral service, he shared what one of the chaplains at the hospital where Debbie was treated had told him: "Advent, this season of waiting and watching, is the holiest time of the year." And I think the chaplain was on to something.
Yes, Christmas itself is wonderful. But part of the wonder of Christmas comes, at least for me, in the practice of waiting and watching. The possibility for true hope, peace, joy and love come as we practice authentic presence and allow room for grief, worry and lament (if you haven't had a chance to watch our Longest Night service, I encourage you to do so here -- it may be that you need that space for lament, not now, but as we move into the New Year).
This Advent has felt particularly special. Perhaps it is that this has already been a year of watching and waiting. Watching the rapid spread of a pandemic across the globe and waiting for relief of all kinds. It has been a year when we have had to face anew the realities of systemic racism, classism and grave injustice within our nation. Our mortality has been held before us as we faced a virus that kills some, leaves long-term physical and neurological impacts on some, and doesn't even manifest symptoms in others. And now, so many of our neighbors are in a time of desperate financial and material need, not to mention the toll of isolation, loneliness and despair on people's mental and spiritual health.
In my lifetime (granted, that's a fair few years shorter than many of your lifetimes), I have never experienced a time when the need for good news was so great. I have never experienced a time when we were so desperately in need of a savior. And not a savior who will wield strength and might. Not a savior who will make the powerful stronger at the cost of the weak. Not a savior who will offer half-truths that make us feel better or vindicated or self-righteous.
But a savior who comes in vulnerability. A savior who knows our suffering. A savior who speaks truth, who comes to establish justice and righteousness. A savior who will, in the words of Mary "bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly. [Who will] fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty." This is the savior for whom we wait. This is the God whom we proclaim. And we are in need of this savior, we are in need of the God revealed by Emmanuel.
Beloved ones, this is the time we have been waiting for: the coming of Emmanuel. The incarnation of God as one of us -- human, weak, dependent and so very open to love's gifts and graces. Will we open ourselves? Will we allow ourselves to be changed? Transformed? And what in the world might happen if we do? Yes, friends, love is coming. Love is here!
I hope you will join us for our Christmas Eve Zoom Worship tomorrow evening as we welcome Christ into our lives and our world anew.
In hope and joyful anticipation,