Christmas Caroling – Uncertainly

“Christmas Caroling – Uncertainly”

John 1:1-5, 10-14 (1:10) – December 24, 2021

            Who here has gone Christmas caroling? With other friends or with fellow church members, going from house to house, standing outside singing carols in the chilly weather. That is quite a memorable experience! I have done it, a number of times. It is fun and cold and full of laughter and false starts and wrong notes. And then, next holiday season, we do it all over again.

            Except – what about this year? This is the second holiday season taking place during the pandemic. Holiday gatherings are again in short supply – except at a prudent distance. What about singing Christmas carols? Maybe, but with a good deal of uncertainty in our hearts.

            When John wrote the beginning of his Gospel, he was thinking of the cosmic Christ, the Word of God that existed from eternity past. Not the little Baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Except, that was there, too. We have the Word, the True Light, the Second Person of the Trinity putting aside all His God-ness to become a tiny little baby. Can you believe it? If you ask most people, it is pretty hard to believe. But, it’s true!

            This year of anxious, fearful living has been difficult on a lot of people, for a number of different reasons. With so many things all through 2021 that are and have been so challenging in all of our lives, can you – or I – really and truly believe the Second Person of the Trinity became a little baby, born in Bethlehem? It can be difficult to have faith, but believe me, it’s true.

            Then, if we add on top of this miracle, the miracle of the birth of the Christ child, the other miracles concerning the birth of Jesus related to us in both the gospels of Luke and Matthew, it becomes more and more of a challenge. How could someone fulfill all of those miracles? Finally, we add the global and cosmic miracles from before the beginning of time from the Gospel of John. Could it be? Really and truly? Especially at such a mixed-up, uncertain time?  

            I can just imagine the uncertainty in the hearts of Mary and Joseph, as they count down the months and weeks of pregnancy, waiting for the birth of their blessed baby. Can you feel the discomfort of the other people in Bethlehem, at having the lowly shepherds, shunted aside, receive an extra special birth announcement?

Yet, I also feel the shepherds’ uncertain hearts, as they come into the unusual premises of a town to seek out a Baby. And, such a Baby! With such a stellar birth announcement, too.

Finally, such a roller coaster of emotions for Mary and Joseph. Enforced travel at such an uncertain time of the year. And then, Bethlehem is full, packed. Not a room to be had. Such uncertainty for this couple! And, to make things even more complicated, Mary goes into labor and bears her firstborn son.

Yes, she and Joseph name this blessed baby Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (much later, after He grows up). However, we can see the cosmic, eternal element in this homey, rustic birth, with the baby laid in a feeding trough. The Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father becomes a helpless, tiny babe.  

Even though you and I may be filled with uncertainty, fear, loss and anxiety at times, I still find myself face to face with this miraculous birth. How unbelievable! How wondrous, and how beyond words this miraculous birth is.

            I turn to my friend Pastor April Fiet’s words: “What I have re-learned more than anything is that my uncertain heart cannot stop the all-embracing love of God. It cannot quench the peace that passes understanding, nor can it stifle the hope that springs eternal. There is joy in this journey, even if there is also sorrow and heartache. And the day will come when joy is born anew in our hearts in a way that can never be silenced. We will cry out “Joy to the World the Lord is come,” and we will receive the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.” [1]

            We have counted off the weeks of Advent with Pastor April, as she has considered this season through the lens of an uncertain heart. We have welcomed hope into our hearts. Peace has returned into the world. Joy blooms amid the grief and loss. And, the overarching, undergirding love of the Christ child born in Bethlehem remains with us, no matter what.

It is good news indeed that a Savior was born. Each year, we who call ourselves Christ followers get to consider anew what it all means. May the candle of the Christ child shine in your heart this Christmas, and all year long.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://aprilfiet.com/my-thoughts/advent-for-uncertain-hearts-christmas-eve?fbclid=IwAR1gNtTG127hJ98yt8G1PUmLoZ7r4LGLL40GDiJJmR0l_xhAxA6FQ3wAKz4

Hope for Uncertain Hearts

“Hope for Uncertain Hearts”

Luke 1:26-45 (1:30) – November 28, 2021

            I want to ask a simple question. Do you believe God is active in the world today? I know we can read about Bible times, thousands of years ago. The Bible says that God was active, mighty and powerful, back then. God did amazing things in people’s lives – long, long ago. But, what about today? Is God active in your life – in my life – today?

            “Few of our people imagine God to be an active character in the story of their lives.” And I suspect commentator Walter Brueggemann is right. It’s not that people today don’t believe in God. It’s more that, day in and day out, God seems to most of them (and perhaps to us, too) as fairly passive. If God is doing anything, it’s pretty much hanging out in the background, watching, waiting, merely being supportive. Not vital, and not active. [1]

Here we are, on the first Sunday in Advent. God may seem far away right now. Merely watching and waiting. Not playing a vital, active role in the story of our lives today. Perhaps it is difficult to think of the Lord as a mighty, powerful actor in our lives right now. But, wasn’t that exactly what God was, in our Scripture reading today?  

            I suspect Mary was shocked down to her sandals when the angel came to her that day, two thousand years ago. The angel said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” We can read that “29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” If that isn’t God taking an active role in Mary’s life, I don’t know what is.

            Is it possible that you and I might have that same kind of expectation today, that hopeful looking-forward-to God acting in our lives, too?

            I am afraid that I am not very hopeful right now. Neither is my friend, Rev. April Fiet. The fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty of the past eighteen months of pandemic have taken their toll on many, many people across our country. Across our world. Is it even possible to hope? Or, is that feeling a big uncertainty, too?

            Pastor April says “I have tried to hope even when better days seemed impossible. I tried to take things one day at a time, not get too far ahead of myself, and look at the good things I had rather than the things I was losing out on.” [2] I can relate to this honesty. Like Pastor April, I became afraid to hope, too. Every time I got a little bit of hope in my heart, some positivity inside, something would happen. COVID cases would spike, or hospitals and morgues would be overwhelmed, or more recently, the supply chain would have severe interruptions. Not to mention interruptions or disasters in my work life here, or my personal life at home.

            Yet, as we mark the first Sunday in Advent, the first candle on the Advent wreath is called the candle of Hope. Can you and I possibly find hope in such an atmosphere of anxiety? Of uncertainty? Overwhelmed by pervasive negativity?

            Pastor April’s words ring so true in my heart. She says, “I’m uncertain about Advent. I’m uncertain I can hope. I’m uncertain about what’s possible for me. The only thing I’m certain about is that I don’t want to go through Advent with this heaviness on my heart. I want to find a way to release [this feeling] so that healing can begin to happen. I want to exchange uncertainty for hope.” [3] Oh, that would be such a blessing to my heart, to even begin to hope!

            I suspect if you and I had an encounter with a heavenly messenger, like Mary did in our Scripture reading, things might be very different for us. I’m asking, again: what about today? Is God active in your life – in my life – today? Can God actively encourage our hearts to hope?

            Sometime after Mary and the angel had their encounter and Mary became pregnant with the infant Jesus, Mary went to her older cousin Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth had had a wonderful intervention happen in her life, too. Mary and Elizabeth both had a most joyous reason to hope. Yes, I suspect both women were anxious and fearful sometimes, especially as this was the first pregnancy for both women.

I’m wondering: isn’t it possible to feel afraid and to hope at the same time? The Holy Spirit helped Mary and Elizabeth to hold great hope in their hearts. They held on to hope even in all the uncertainty and caution of their lives.

Sometimes, we may feel overwhelmed, even afraid to hold on to hope. But, we do not need to face challenges all alone. God has promised to be with us. Plus, you and I can join together. We can come alongside of each other, too, if someone is feeling especially down and hopeless. [4] We can thank God for each other! Thank God for God’s mighty power, too.

So, what do you think? We know about Bible times long ago, and what the biblical record has to say. What about today? Is God active in your life – in my life – today? Can God actively encourage our hearts to hope? We can trust that God is still active, and is still doing all kinds of things in the world today – even in each of our lives! Look around at the people around you, in your family, in your congregation. God actively encourages each one of them, and each of us, too. [5]

God can do marvelous things through all our lives, too. Think how many marvelous things God wants to accomplish through each of us, today. On our insides and on our outsides. God IS mighty, active, and inspiring hope for sure, even through these uncertain times.

Alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

And, thanks to Rev. April Fiet for her excellent series “An Advent for Uncertain Hearts.” I appreciate Illustrated Ministry’s Do Not Be Afraid selections for Advent, too.


[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/favored-ones

[2] https://aprilfiet.com/my-thoughts/advent-for-uncertain-hearts-week-1-when-it-is-hard-to-hope

[3] Ibid.

[4] Illustrated Ministry – Do Not Be Afraid, Advent 2021

[5] https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/favored-ones