Dear Friends in Christ,
Advent is a season of preparation for something that is to come. For most of us who have been a part of the church, our preparation has focused on Christmas and the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem. That is what sets the church apart from the commercialism surrounding the season. That baby in a manger in Bethlehem is Immanuel, “God with us,” who came into our world in human flesh. If we really think about it, that is a pretty mind-blowing event. It is the best gift we could possibly get. It is better than all the Christmas goodies; better than getting the present we have always wanted. And it even surpasses the joy of gathering together that in a normal world would warm our hearts as we share that love with one another.
We are celebrating the presence of God in our world and our lives. Not just at one moment in time, but every day of our lives and in every breath we take. But because we get so wrapped up in what is going on around us we often forget and need to be reminded again and again. Christmas is a persistent reminder of that presence. It happens every year in the flow of our worship life, and then stays with us even after the celebration is over.
We are especially challenged this year, when the usual has turned into the unusual, and we are left with feelings of loss, isolation, anxiety and fear. Our expectations have had to change. We have been challenged to come up with new and creative ways to share and gather, without risking our lives and those we love. The trappings of the season may be different, but the spirit is still the same. It is that promised and present presence of God that keep us going – keeps us going through the times of preparation, waiting and hoping. We are filled with expectations of a new normalcy. We hope for a vaccine that will protect us from the unseen virus that has affected so many people’s lives. We long for stability in our governing systems and help for the most vulnerable in society.
My wish list is a long one, but the world to which that baby in a manger once came, also had a long list of wishes in their hearts. Wishes that would change their lives in dramatic ways. What do you wish for? What will you find in that manger again this year? Whatever your heart is longing for, be assured that the hope of the world is once again found in that manger as a gift to each one of us.
May the presence of God who came to us all as a baby in a manger rest in your heart in this season of hope.