Tracing Back to the Manger

“This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”-Luke 2:2

Yesterday December 23rd was the second anniversary of my grandfather’s death. His death was the ninth death in 2018. 2018 was the year of great loss and grief and it constantly felt that I was on the Lenten weary road of grief. I was a Road Weary Traveler. Little did I know how much that year would prepare me for the year of 2020.

This year has been filled with so much loss and grief. At times, God has seemed distant and silent. Yet it’s no surprise in the midst of such great loss. Chairs at holiday tables are empty because loved one have been lost to Covid 19. Families are not together because they are quarantining or simply trying to keep their neighbors safe. As a result, we might need a little help preparing our hearts to receive this infant king.

I, for one, need God to help me prepare my heart to receive Emmanuel “God with us.” My heart is so heavy with the grief of this year. I look at my Christmas tree and am reminded of dear Marvel who gifted me with my tree skirt. Marvel caught Covid 19 and passed away. She was one of the kindest and healthiest women that I know. Her husband and family are not far from my mind this holiday season. And their story is only one in a million stories from the year of our Lord; 2020.

I grieve that the beginning of my call started right as the pandemic took flight here in the United States. I’ve taught Bible study over Zoom. I’ve edited countless worship services. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve questioned if we are doing enough to protect those we serve. After months of waiting to travel to Norway, my colleague finally left to start her new call in Oslo. In the midst of the grief, I’m thankful for the time we shared and all she taught me. But I once again find myself on the weary road and I’m tired!

To be honest, this has been the longest Lenten weary road ever, leading us straight into Advent and to the manger. At the manger, we are reminded that Christ comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. But sometimes, like this year, we need to sit in the dark and be reminded that only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.

Because God overcomes death and the grave, I need to hear the words that the angel says to Mary, to Joseph and to all of us “Do not be afraid.” I need to faithfully hear and share the story because “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Most especially, in the year of our Lord 2020, Jesus meets us in the hopes and fears of this very year.

And as I hear this familiar story, I am beginning to see signs of hope swaddled in God’s love for all of us. The vaccine is starting to be distributed to essential workers. My mom’s nursing home called yesterday and asked if we wanted mom to get the vaccine in early 2021. Glimmers of hope in the midst of an extremely difficult year.

Signs of hope come in Emmanuel “God with us.” This one who promises to never leave us or forsake us. This one who comes into the world, in all his humanity, as the Word made flesh. “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:1-5).”

Tears are falling from my eyes as I remember again that Jesus is the one born “as the hopes and fears of all the years.” God’s love is met in thee tonight; met in an infant Son born for all the world to see and always traces us back to the manger, to the cross and to the empty tomb.

Unmute yourselves, my friends and proclaim loudly and triumphantly “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 11-12)

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