She tells us about her ‘year of hard things’. Her experiences include a ‘traumatizing pregnancy,’ a cross-country move, leaving behind close friends and steady jobs, and moving ‘into a cramped, loud, chaotic apartment complex.’ She recalls an extraordinary circumstance where someone from the neighborhood drives his car through her daughter’s bedroom wall! All of these things, not surprisingly, bring about great anxiety and her being unable to work. It is a bad year to top bad years.
But after being out of their home for a few days so the wall could be repaired, she finds herself feeling glad upon their return to the ‘crowded, chaotic’ apartment. She says because ‘it felt like our place.’ She recognized in it her new normal. She reconciled where she was, and found in it, the renewal of hope. She was not okay but that was okay.
As her focus began to change – anticipating the things to come like the baby crawling, her returning to school, the family having a little bit more money in the bank – she realized too that her understanding of Jesus had changed. That he is no longer an abstract figure far removed from her. He is her ‘bruised and battered brother’ beside her- that he been there through all of this.
I found comfort in her words, reconciling that even though I am not as okay as I thought, I am okay with that.
Then this week, I read a short yet remarkable account of a young girl who got pregnant. She wasn’t married and the impression I got was that the small town she was from, being very religious, frowned upon this sort of thing. One can only imagine the dinner table gossip about her, people who don’t know what happened, but will speak as if they do. Those who will judge as if they are somehow entitled to and then share their unfounded story with others whether it’s true or not. The poor kid didn’t ask for this but they will offer her no grace.
And in denying her grace, they deny the one through whom grace has come.
Despite knowing nothing about being pregnant, giving birth, or raising a child- this very young girl, chose to accept what God was calling her to do even if it meant she would be doubted, shunned, maybe not even believed. But she knew the truth. That God blessed her among women to not only carry the Christ child into the world, but to love him, raise him, care for him, and stand by him even when it meant having to watch him die.
We can all draw from Mary’s strength, her faith and follow the example she sets. She shows us how waiting with joy-filled anticipation can be the most perfect way to embrace God’s will within us. She doesn’t fall prey to condemnations and comments, but instead sings her Song of Praise high above those who point their fingers and whisper behind her back!
Her faith encourages us to accept the grace that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to worry, wonder, or doubt- it is in the trying to grow through these things that we find joy.
So this year, I learn again that this is what Advent is about: standing honestly in what I know to be true, recognizing it. Sorting through the stuff I have to sort through- reconciling it, trying to heal from it. It’s about looking inwardly at the dark corners and finding the light, the renewal and promise- anticipating the coming of something great.
As we wait in the uncertainty of our faith for the coming Christ, may we all do so by making advent a time of recognition, reconciliation and renewal. By seeing the grace, welcoming it into our hearts, and offering it to others.
Recognizing that we all have our struggles. We all have our pain and our sin. And we all have Christ, our ‘bruised and battered brother,’ beside us, who as a baby taught us how to be vulnerable, and as an adult how to be kind, faithful, and caring.
So as this season of Advent moves closer to the manger, may we recognize, reconcile and renew ourselves closer to the great gifts of unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and hope in the New Year. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
Worship with us live on Facebook
Sunday at 11:00 a.m.