As We Wait
I’m thankful to see 2020 come to a close, as I’m sure you are. In this Advent season we remember anew that we serve the God who has shown his active love by sending his Son to redeem us and to restore his world. When Jesus came to earth, it was at a difficult time. The land was ruled by Roman conquerors, and daily life was hard for most. Yet God was present – and he was about to prove it in a magnificent way through the birth of Christ.
I’ve been thinking about the Christmas story in this strange year of 2020. In the past 12 months we have endured the COVID-19 pandemic, issues around racial tensions, polarizing U.S. elections, and global economic uncertainty. Back in Nazareth and Bethlehem it had been a strange year for Mary and Joseph as well — one that included an unexpected pregnancy, contemplations of divorce, visits from angels, community gossip around infidelity, and then the unexpected requirement to make a long journey to Bethlehem for a census at the height of Mary’s pregnancy.
As they made their way to be counted in the census and as they looked for lodging in a crowded town, I’m sure that Mary and Joseph were eagerly looking forward to putting all of that behind them. They were probably anxious to return to Nazareth and the comfort of their own home. They looked forward to their life together as a newly married couple. And, most importantly, they longed for the birth of this child whom God had said would be the long-awaited Messiah.
We too exist in a time of waiting. COVID-19 has forced us to change much about the way we live and work. We grieve not only the loss of loved ones but also the loss of large birthday parties, wedding receptions we had planned on, traditional funeral gatherings, “regular” Sunday worship, and the ability to gather and work together. We long for vaccines so that we can put COVID-19 behind us. We long for the healing of our loved ones, for racial reconciliation in our countries, and for economic recovery across the globe.
With these things in mind, I’d like to suggest that this Advent season we follow Mary and Joseph’s example and focus on the Messiah. I think specifically of the promise of Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
As we struggle in this year of seeming darkness, we know that God has chosen to come and dwell with us. He is here, walking alongside us, living within us by his Spirit. When we feel overwhelmed or ill-equipped, we know that we can turn to the light. We can trust in God to sustain us.
But the Christmas story isn’t just about a baby in a manager. It isn’t only about God choosing to be with us. It is also about Jesus’ victory over death for our sake, the beginning of eternal life in him right now, and the knowledge that God provides light in any darkness that we may experience. When all we can see is the danger around us, we can remember that God is in control and will work with and through it to bring about his good and perfect will.
As we look forward to 2021, may these promises give us hope.