As we gather around our advent candles and our Christmas trees this season, there is a quiet narrative taking place. It is taking place beneath the hustle and bustle of parties, beneath the Christmas themed elevator music at the mall and beneath the wrapping of gifts, planning of groceries and the polite conversations of distant family members.
It is the narrative of God’s faithfulness. Of His continued preservation of our lives, our families and our communities. We have arrived at the end of yet another year and we begin to be expectant. For some of us the year will end with a triumph, we have conquered fears, paid off debt, lost the weight and are walking into Advent with a sense of contentment and pride.
For others, this has been a year of hardship and struggle. We have lost friends, relationships, momentum; our dreams seem even further than they did last year and we seem to have misplaced our sense of purpose. For the rest of us, we will arrive at Advent as though we have just walked off a roller coaster, disoriented as to if we should weep or laugh, completely unsure of where to go next or what even just happened.
Still, under these varying storylines, lies a common narrative of faithfulness. We can trace it from the garden of Eden to Abraham, to the preserved remnant of the Israelites, to Mary, to Jesus, to the early Church fathers, to the Reformers, and down to us. For millennia God has been preserving and carrying His people.
Our lives move at such a pace that all we can see is the here and now. We get caught up in it, rather than in the big picture of God’s faithfulness and preservation.
Despite this, we are prone to situational amnesia. Our anxiety rises and all we can think about is how we will never get through this. Our thoughts focus on all the different ways everything is going to fall apart and how we will be left in disgrace and rejection.
Our lives move at such a pace that all we can see is the here and now. We get caught up in it, rather than in the big picture of God’s faithfulness and preservation. We forget that we have faced deadlines before and survived, that we have been met with kindness and compassion in the midst of crisis and that we have woken up to the sunrise and been greeted by a new day that requires none of our effort to move into its rhythms.
Advent is a time of leaning in, of quieting the noises around us and learning to listen to voices of the past, the voices that remind us of the moment God reached into human history and bestowed upon us his Salvation. The song of Mary in Luke 1 captures this beautifully. It is the song of a woman asked to play a large role in the story of God’s faithfulness. Her song is a beautiful landmark that looks forward to the generations to come and backwards to God’s promise to Abraham. It is a great example of what our prayers should be this season and every season.
One of my favourite parts of our Sunday service is when we recite the Creed; when we join Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries to proclaim our faith. When we do this we re-orient ourselves to a God who is faithful, one who has carried the Church like a child from century to century. As we recite the Creed, I often find myself imagining voices lifted in all languages, across all countries, in Cathedrals, in make-shift buildings, in basements and even in hiding, all proclaiming our faith and God’s faithfulness. It marks for me the tension of looking back at God’s faithfulness and being fortified to hope for it in the future.
The joy of Advent is celebrating the fulfillment of a promise. Christ is coming. We can sense His nearness with every Advent candle we light, with every week that draws us closer to the joy of Christmas and the mystery of God the Creator wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger.
God is faithful. He is faithful in the gifts He gives us, new callings and purpose, restored marriages and relationships, the closeness of friends and family. He is faithful even in the sadness of missed opportunities, in the wake of lost loved ones and dreams. He is faithful because He is still the same God who reached into history and asked a young woman to be a part of something that would bring peace and redemption to a wandering people. He is faithful because He loves us deeply. He loves us because we belong to Him; we are His people. He longs to establish us, before a searching world, so they might know Him and His power to carry us through.