Walking Through the Worst Valleys

As I sit to share all the “good tidings” and “Yuletide warmth” of the coming season, our world finds itself coming into an Advent/Christmas season unlike any of us have lived through before. In the ravage of Covid it is hard to have a sense of the cheerfulness of the season. I could quote all the heartbreaking numbers and numbing stats, but the truth is the Truth of Christmas is more relevant and powerful at this Christmas more than ever!

We can find real and solid joy in the Truth of a Savior born, even – no especially in the context of threat and crisis. “And He shall be called Emanuel (which means, God-with-us).” Is what scripture declares! “God-with-us” is great news! As we struggle with pandemic, political chaos, economic crisis the Truth is God is breaking into the midst of it all – right now, just as Christ did on that first Christmas 2000 years ago. When threat, and trouble, and fear and doubt seem to overwhelm, God makes a definitive declaration of love and presence! “For God so loved(s) the world”! So much so that God comes fully into the present moment – then and now – to make a way for us! For you, and I, and each, and all! Our All-Surpassing God arrives as an Overcoming Savior. In the midst of all that confronts us and at times seems too much, God says, “I am with you and nothing – not one thing – not any bunch of things – can separate my love for you”.

Let us remember what the angels say to Mary, then Joseph, then to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid!” The power of Emanuel carries us through the crises of our times and into the presence of Divine Love, Blessing, and Grace! May we also remember what the Psalmist declares of their experience of God’s presence: “Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death,”. We are children of the God of “Through”. Not a God who stands at one edge of the abyss we find ourselves in and cheers, “You can make it”. Nor a God who stands at the other and calls, “Your almost here”. No! We have the God Emanuel who walks through the worst valleys with us; stride for stride and will never leave us!

Advent is a season of waiting, preparing, and expectation. Let’s be at work in preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child. In a season of Covid and societal chaos, we can be preparing our hearts through prayer, reading the scriptures – especially the Bethlehem stories and the claims of the prophets concerning God’s faithfulness and gracious initiative. May we be actively waiting; doing the work of the Commonwealth of this coming Christ. May we be humbly expectant knowing our God is not overcome and is ever faithful. May we be watchful, looking for the new thing God is doing in our midst.

Especially in a time as ours, know the “unovercomable” (my new word) Truth that God breaks through the chaos and crises of our times. That in God’s great love for you and I and each and all a Savior is born. That this is “good news of great joy for all people”! Do be cheerful this Christmas season! Have lots of Joy and be of good cheer! Embrace the grace of Emanuel! Merry, Merry Christmas!

Be God’s, Pastor Jim

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