to embody God’s compassion for each fragile human life.
God is with us in our longing to bring healing to the earth,
while we watch with joy and wonder for the promised Savior’s birth.”
(Unexpected and Mysterious, ELW #258)
If you’re anything like me and my wife, you may have spent some time in recent months binge-watching a few TV shows or movies on Netflix or another streaming platform. One pattern that seems to be repeated in a variety of these stories is the ebb and flow between times of peace and joy and times of conflict and tension. It often gets to the point where whenever the main character(s) seem to have their problems resolved and they finally get to enjoy life, I think to myself, “this can’t last; something bad is coming.” And, sure enough, they make a bad decision, the enemy whom they had thought they had vanquished resurfaces, or a twist of luck or fate throws them right back into chaos and fear.
Sound familiar? Our real-life plot twists have followed this pattern, causing us to pivot between hope and despair. COVID numbers rise and fall, causing us to resume practices we thought we had left behind; the headlines related to political tensions, violence around the world and in our streets, and the suffering and damage caused by violent weather patterns are mixed with stories of resilience, generosity, and love. I am also aware that there are countless private struggles that don’t make the headlines, stories filled with pain and brokenness and courage and hope.
We may long for the “happily-ever-after” endings that Hollywood promises, and as people of faith, we may even want to believe that this is what God promises us in Jesus. And yet, the twists and turns continue, and the peace and tranquility we seek seems all too fleeting. I do not believe that God is holding out on us, waiting to fulfill our dreams until we get our act together. As the hymn reminds us, “God is with us in our longing to bring healing to the earth.” This is the Good News of this season: Immanuel, God is with us. Not to fix things for us, but to be with us, right here, right now, in the midst of all the ebbs and flows of life.
Regardless of what might be happening around us, or to us, or in us, God invites us to turn toward the light of the coming Christ child, together, trusting that hope will guide us, and love will hold us.
Bishop Paul Erickon