This is my latest article for the Longview News-Journal.
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Recently, dictionary.com and Miriam-Webster Dictionary announced that the word of the year for 2020 was “pandemic.” I cannot imagine trying to sum up all that is happened in 2020 into one word. There are so many to chose from: “social distancing,” “masks,” “unprecedented,” “new normal,” or even “unknown.”
It’s no secret that this year has been one for the record books. We are currently amid a pandemic the likes we have not seen in this country for over a century; we have endured shelter in place orders and restrictions on gatherings and meetings. People have lost their jobs, sources of income, businesses and livelihood. Almost 300,000 people have died from the Corona Virus. On top of all this, we suffered through a continuous Presidential election. Now, we are having conversations about how Christmas gatherings, parties, and worship services will be like during this unique time. How does someone summarize all the feelings we have had in 2020?
I think an appropriate word for 2020 would be “uncertain.” We just don’t know what the future will bring. Maybe uncertain is too passive or too negative for some, and I understand that. However, uncertain might be just right for many of us. There is so much uncertainty, so much we do not know.
We don’t know when this pandemic will end.
We don’t know when we will all be together again.
We don’t know when a vaccine will be available or who will get it, or how effective it will be.
We don’t know what 2021 will look like.
We don’t know how many more people will get COVID-19 or die from it.
We don’t know how educators will continue to educate in a pandemic with online learning, masks, and restrictions.
We don’t know what will happen from one day to the next.
We don’t know what to do; we can feel lost.
We don’t know… We don’t know… We don’t know…
The prophet Isaiah echoes these stirrings of our hearts during this time when he wrote, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” (Is. 64:1). This cry to God is one of lament and struggle, of grief and sadness. The prophet is calling on God to bring God’s mercy and goodness to the people of Israel. They are calling on God not to forget them. They are looking for a cosmic, radical shift in how things have been and where they hope to be.
For Christians, we are in a holy and unique time of the Christian calendar, the Advent season. (No, it is not the Christmas season despite what the retail stores like the tell you.)
Advent, the season of intentional waiting for the Messiah, teaches us a great lesson; it gives us something to hold on to as we leave 2020 behind and look ahead to 2021.
Each week of Advent, Christians light candles representing the four pillars of the journey to the manger: hope, peace, joy, and love. As the light grows each week, we grow closer to the arrival of Jesus again in our midst. While we sit in uncertainty, there is a beacon of hope on the horizon; there is a point of light guiding us home. There is hope in the uncertainty.
We may not know when we will be free of masks and social distancing, but we know that hope will forever remain, love will guide us, peace will fill our hearts, and joy will spring forth as we expectantly wait for the birth of the Messiah, the savior of the world, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Hope has not left us; hope is not gone, it is here, and we must recognize it.
The light of hope pushes back the uncertainty and shows us how God has been with us through it all. Yes, we might not know what tomorrow will bring, but if the hope of God dwells in our hearts, if the gospel’s call of love will be heard, if the light of Advent will show us the way to the manger, then we will not be afraid. Advent, a time of waiting and reflection, calls us to hold on to hope as we wait for the coming of our savior when God comes down.
Hope is all around us. There is hope in the laughter of children. Hope is found in the community coming together for the bettering of people’s lives. Hope is in the food boxes given at Longview Community Ministries. Hope is more than wishful thinking. Hope is about trusting that a better day is coming.
There is hope that God will be with us through the ups and the downs, the joys, and the sorrows, in the hurt, and in the healing. God hears us when we cry out; God cares for us when we are in pain. Hope is all around us. Let us keep our eyes open as we journey to the manger with Mary & Joseph, as we seek the savior of the world in this uncertain time.