As a child, I would think of Advent as a journey, a journey to magical, much anticipated place. That place is Christmas! Christmas, with its packages and special TV shows and cookies and carols and decorations and parties. The journey was marked with candles on the Advent wreath at church and the countdown of “Shopping Days Until Christmas” in the local newspaper and the little doors we opened on the Advent calendar each day. There were little waypoints on the journey – parties and gift exchanges at school, the Sunday School Christmas pageant, the schedule of our favorite Christmas TV specials – things that made the waiting bearable.
This year the journey is completely upended. Many of the markers and waypoints are disrupted because of COVID. No parties. No braving the crowds on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Church is online. We all want to be hopeful, but it’s all so different, so strange.
It has given me a new appreciation for the Bible stories we read through this season. The people to whom the prophet Isaiah is writing to are either in exile in a foreign country or waiting for something bad [exile] to happen to them very soon. For these people, the future is very, very uncertain. Mary sounds so brave, so certain in her words to Elizabeth, recognizing the great things God is doing and that she gets to be part of the story. But did she feel so courageous back home as she waited for her baby and all of the neighbors knew something wasn’t quite right? Was she so brave as she bumped down the road with Joseph [who was also very skeptical about all of this] to Bethlehem? No one knew for certain where they were going in these stories. Nothing was certain other than God promised to go with all of them.
It’s been a strange and challenging journey these past eight months or so. All of us have found ourselves in a strange and unexpected place. All of us who work here at Trinity have been experiencing this time as well. As we work here, trying to make church vital and lively and meaningful, we feel the same strange, dislocating feelings you do. As we have reflected on these famous Advent Bible lessons, we would like to offer some of our thoughts on what these lessons mean to us in these days. We hope it is a small blessing to you as you journey through this holy season.
God’s peace to you and your journey from all of us!
Pastor Gary Erdos