Looking at the way the world around us prepares for Christmas, there’s very little uncertainty. The countdown begins earlier and earlier each year. You simply can’t ignore what’s coming, and the only thing that’s unpredictable is how retailers will try to find new ways to capitalize on the season. For example, just today I received an email proclaiming “Black Friday Tuesday!”
The season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, is intended to be a time of expectation and waiting. Proclaiming the coming of the Christ-child. Anticipating God breaking forth into the world in new and profound ways. And though we don’t always lean into it, there’s also a fair amount of uncertainty.
Waiting for anything takes faith. Faith that what you’re waiting on will come to pass. With the way we celebrate holidays this sense of faithful waiting is relatively muted, since we know exactly what date they will occur. We can be certain that Christmas will come on December 25th.
But this season invites us into a posture of waiting that is much less certain. The people of God had been waiting for many, many years for the coming of the messiah. They couldn’t look to a date on their calendar to know when it would happen. They didn’t get email reminders from local retailers to start shopping for the first-ever Christmas season.
Mary and Joseph endured waiting and uncertainty, too, like any family who has experienced pregnancy. Yes, you can make a general prediction of when a child will be born, but nature has a way of being unpredictable. I imagine Jesus’ parents would have preferred to schedule the birth of their son at a time when they weren’t travelling away from home, when they could have more conventional accommodations. But alas, that’s not how it worked out.
This particular Advent season brings a lot of uncertainty amidst the faithful waiting and expectation. We trust that God is present, preparing to act, guiding us toward what is next. But there are still a lot of questions about what that will look like.
Personally I simply cannot predict how some of the big questions in my life will or won’t be answered between now and Christmas. Our house is going on the market . Will it sell? I’m still faithfully searching and applying for meaningful work opportunities to coincide with my upcoming move to Virginia. Which of these might materialize into my next job? I trust and expect that God is at work in all of these things, but I don’t have a clue how and when they will ultimately work out.
Similarly, we as a church are in a time of big questions, asked both of ourselves and of God. How might we be called to continue as part of the Richmond Church of the Brethren. Are we called to continue with this community? Is the church even called to continue, or is God inviting us to close this chapter so the next can be written?
There’s lots of uncertainty in the air. But the season of Advent invites us into postures of hope, joy, peace, and love as we wait. We know God is at work, coming into this world anew. Bursting into our lives in ways both familiar and unexpected. Whispering to us: “Don’t be afraid.”
Come, Lord Jesus. Come into our uncertainty. Come into our waiting. Fill our lives with your promise of possibility and abundance, even in the face of fear and change. Come, as we know you will. Come, open our eyes to your way. We are expectant. We are ready. Come.