“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed this week, seeing videos and photos being shared of the “Christmas star” (the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the western horizon), that clouds obscured our view here in the upper Midwest. It was, perhaps, a fitting metaphor for 2020, a year in which signs of hope and light have been hard to see. As we bring this year to an end, I am grateful that progress is being made regarding the many struggles we have endured, that hope is on the horizon.
Two Coronavirus vaccines are now available, and there is hope that this pandemic may be drawing to a close in the coming months. The economic relief bill will bring needed assistance to many who have been struggling. Conversations on racial equity are continuing, though, to be honest, the clouds seem a bit thicker on this front, and light and hope may be less certain.
Scripture reminds us, however, that our hope is not based on external circumstances, but on the faithfulness of God. Regardless of how quickly and effectively the vaccines end the pandemic, or how well our government responds to the various threats and challenges of the coming year, or how much progress we make on building the beloved community of equity and justice, we still have hope. Christ is born, love prevails, and God is with us, no matter what.
This is not to say that our hope is divorced from the struggles and challenges of life; rather, we believe that the gift of hope is available to us, no matter what is going on in our families, our communities, and our world. The newborn hope that we celebrate at this time of the year gives us the strength we need to move forward, trusting that God’s light will guide us.
As the magi followed the star of Bethlehem on their long journey, I’m pretty sure that it was not always visible to them. Daylight, clouds, and the landscape they encountered likely obscured their view of the star and perhaps even made them question whether they were still headed in the right direction. And yet, they persisted, taking one step at a time, trusting that the light was still there, and that it would guide them where they needed to go.
My prayer for us, this Christmas season and always, is that we will also find the strength and hope and respite we need to keep moving forward, one step at a time, one day at a time, trusting that the light of Christ will shine, helping us to find our way toward whatever future God has in store.
In joy and gratitude,
Bishop Paul Erickson