Yet in the words of the Psalmist, something is stirring. “My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps 139:15-16).
Mary knows, and Joseph knows. Elizabeth knows. Three people and some excited angels know that God’s answer is on its way. And so in them and with them, we wait. Light is about to shine in our darkness. That, however, is not the end of it all. It’s the beginning. Another stretch of unknown looms before us.
For after the joy of the Savior’s birth we wait some more—a whole generation in fact, rather like the people of Israel having to spend a generation to reach their promised land. Confusion, fear, distress and fainting fits re-appear, as we wait for Jesus to grow up— so that God can become human like we are and in every way. Another period of things happening in secret and hidden away lies before us.
Finally, that grown up Jesus, God serving humans as a human being and revealing how God is Love, tells us all that there will be times when there will be “distress among the nations, confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken…Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:25-28).
It seems to me that we never stop being Advent people, even as people of the resurrection. We don’t seem to leave Advent in the rear view mirror. It’s the ability to stand and lift up our heads that is different. It’s the assurance that Jesus’ words that have finally come will not pass away. It’s the awareness that God’s Kingdom is always near and our redemption with it, that is our hope, and the hope of the world. So, confusion, fear, distress and fainting from exhaustion are also with us. It’s our alertness that matters, and our opportunity to pray for strength to escape such negativity and always to stand before that Son of Man who is none other than God who cared to experience our existence for the sake of love. And its our faith that confesses belief that “He will come again” to roll up time—with the living and the dead—and weigh it all in the balance of that very same experienced love Incarnate.
In the peace of Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa