Out of Darkness into Joy

I am looking forward to worshiping and celebrating the balance of Advent and the beginning of the Christmas seasons this year. We have all been filled with great anticipation of a more physically connective Advent and Christmas this year. Even if you may not be a "huggy" type of person, there are other blessed ways to enjoy our family and friends in person when we gather.

We must continue to be very careful and gather with a limited number of people in one place although and not gather multiple times and or multiple gatherings in various places, so we can ensure more of us will be as safe as possible over the holidays due to the recent spike in Omicron COVID infections.

Even so, the message for Advent and Christmas is one of excitement and holds expectations of a momentous time for our families, friends, and for those of various faith communities who will also be gathering this week and into the new year. That message of excitement and anticipation in our faith community has its base in the story of the humble beginnings of a family who traveled to find a place to rest and settle down before participating in a grand polling of the people.

While that was taking place, a story unfolded of how such a mundane event that included an unmarried mother and father, a different type of family in those days, one of the thousands, but also had within it one member who was the source of the anticipation and excitement by many who were waiting with expectation for that One's historic and earth-shattering entry into this world.

That story has been told for thousands of years to nearly every people group and on every continent. However, it is a story that has wonder and gladness as well as sadness and anguish wrapped together in it. I pray that as you will focus first on the wonder and gladness, and not begin as so many of us do, when someone says to us, "Well, I have good news and bad news." And so many reply, "Give me the bad news first."

I ask that you read Luke 2:1-20 in your Bibles, taking note of the wonder and gladness, and simultaneously do a literary archaeological type of mental dig. Meticulously brush away the historical knowledge that you have been told over your lifetime regarding this account that may cause you to vicariously experience the sadness and or fear that can creep into your heart and mind because you have knowledge of the rest of the story, which we will go over later this year and into the new year. Let the account of this young family's journey hit you emotionally and spiritually first as you read it. If you think it will help, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you and your family would experience it and act at every point of the story.

Currently, after the effects of the pandemic and the total "atmosphere" that surrounds it, I feel there is more of an inclination to immerse ourselves in sad news, or negative events, and the violent actions that are happening around us, at the expense of the wonder and the gladness that is evident in our world too. Doing so may make some of us feel like we are dealing explicitly with the reality of this world and will not be accused of "sticking their heads in the sand" or "looking through rose-colored glasses."

Dealing straightforwardly with the negative reality of what is happening in our world must not overshadow the wonder and gladness that makes our world better. I say that to look at the story in the Bible reading, from the second chapter of Luke, is blessed part of the reality that is full of the wonder of what God is doing today to bring love and healing to hurting people and noticing that should make us glad. Amen!

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