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An Advent Reflection

December 17, 2021

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus (“arrival”) and points to the coming of a long-awaited person or event. Most of us associate this term with Christmas and a time of preparation as we remember and acknowledge the most significant arrival in history —  the coming of “God with us” in the birth of Jesus.

This Christmas, many of us are also experiencing expectation and longing in another way. During 2020, many of us couldn’t wait for the calendar to change to 2021. We hoped that the new year would bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and a “return to normal.” Little did we know that new versions of the same old challenges would face us throughout 2021.

In society at large, 2021 has been fraught with difficulties — theological division, political schisms, racism (individual and systemic), and a host of international challenges. As a denomination, we marked various phases of the pandemic with its seemingly continuous peaks and valleys. We adjusted our work, our ministries, our family matters, and indeed — our very lives — to compensate for our new reality.

Though these times have been hard, I count it among my life’s greatest joys to have worked with and served alongside all of the members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Thank you for your dedication to Christ, your dedication to the gospel, your dedication to the people of God worldwide, and for sharing the love of Christ with people near and far. Serving alongside such a great crowd of witnesses has helped me to feel joy, no matter what our external circumstances turned out to be.

Now, as the calendar year draws to a close once again, as the omicron variant causes COVID cases to rise, and as we hear reports of unrest and natural disasters around the world, many of us are experiencing longing and hopes for 2022. We eagerly await an end to the pandemic — to be able to gather in large groups, to travel, to hug someone without thinking about social distancing. We anxiously look forward to Synod 2022 and the ability to be the church together. And we recognize that no matter what 2022 may hold for us as individuals, families, communities, or the denomination as a whole, God is standing with us. God’s incarnate love, which was made manifest in the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ, means that we can trust him to sustain us in the new year.

This Advent, I invite you to read anew the story of Christ’s birth. I invite you to experience anew the gospel love story dripping with God’s expectant and abundant agape love for us as his children. May you not only receive and feel God’s love but also share it with family and friends this Christmas. And may the new year allow us all to focus not on our hardships but instead on the one who made us, who loves us so much that he sent his Son to save us, and who calls us to love everyone around us in the same way.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Colin P. Watson, Sr.
Executive Director of the CRCNA