Pastor’s Friday Comments (12.18.20)

This Sunday, December 20, is the fourth and final Sunday in Advent. As always, it not only marks the last Lord’s Day on which we worship from the texts that focus on the Second Coming of Christ, but also the beginning of the countdown toward the celebration of the Nativity.

The emotional flow is usually through the darkness and anticipation of Advent to the light and joyful celebration of Christmas. This year maybe not so much.

It isn’t that we can’t celebrate Christmas, of course. That is a recognition of an event that has already occurred and that can give us joy whenever it is considered. But the truth this year is that we are also still waiting for a few things.

It is our global, universal experience that we are waiting for relief from the pandemic. There is a tinge of joyful expectation in the news that vaccines are soon to arrive, but when they arrive and when any individual may receive one is still uncertain. Impatience is understandable, but certainly we all want the health care providers and other essential workers, as well as the most vulnerable to receive them first. We have to wait our turn.

Assuming a sufficient number of people take the vaccine to move us beyond the immediate threat, we will still be waiting for a return to “normal,” if there will even be such a thing. Will we ever hug as indiscriminately, gather in crowds so thoughtlessly, or trust as fully as we once did? We will have to wait and see.

We are waiting for a new political climate. One would have hoped that that might have come with the election of a new President, but with the outgoing occupant refusing to accept reality, and with two vitriolic Senatorial run-off campaigns dragging us into January, there is still a lot of waiting to do.

We are waiting for an end to violence, no matter who causes it or how senseless it may be. 

We are waiting for racial reconciliation, for a realization of King’s dream that everyone be known for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

I, for one, am waiting for a redirection of the attention of the Church Universal, for an end to our self-serving desire for protection and a reinvigoration of our mission to the last, the lost, and the least.

Christmas will come this year as it always has, but it won’t put an end to our waiting.

It has been providential this year that our texts from the Hebrew Scriptures have focused on the exile and return of the Israelites to their land. They were not going back to a land flowing with milk and honey, but a vista of destruction and desolation. And God’s promise to them was not of immediate miracles that would restore them to former glory, but of a Suffering Servant who would promise to walk beside them, no matter what their trials, and who would see them through whatever challenges they had to face.

That’s the kind of promise that we need this Advent, and, if it takes a little longer to come to fruition, we have to remember that we are working on God’s timetable and not our own. Believe me, I’m celebrating Christmas this year, no matter how different it looks from years past. But I’m also going to hold onto Advent for a little longer, because Advent means that there is always light in the midst of darkness and hope in the midst of despair, and that is the truth to which we must cling during difficult times.