For several years I have been using the same book for my readings at Advent. I have not always celebrated Advent, being at the beginning of my introduction to the “Reformed Faith” very opposed to “holy days” but as as I have grown older in years and
younger in my faith (“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” -thank you Mr. Dylan) I have found Advent and Lent to be very helpful in my “slogging along” in this experience called the Christian life (thank you Ralph Davis). But that is really not the point of this particular blog (to argue for Advent).
When I pulled the book of the shelf this year I noticed that for some reason I had chose that book to store my mother’s, Audrey Hopper Ferguson. obituary and the wedding announcement for my niece Laura Anne Cranford.
I tried to think of when I did that and why but like many things in this stage in my life I could not remember. But I thought that it would have been perfect if I had included a birth announcement, that would have made the clippings complete. Advent, for me at least, is not about anticipating Christmas and celebration but thinking seriously about the need for the Messiah, my need, humanity’s need and about his ability to meet us anywhere along this journey. The thing that college, seminary, most Bible studies and most sermons that I have heard (including mine) did not prepare me for is just how difficult and struggling this thing called life can become and especially how difficult the life of faith can be.
Over the past 30 years I have had the opportunity to preach and teach in Ukraine, Uganda, the Bahamas and a wide variety of other place, in English and through translators and the one questions that seems to get the same noisy, animated response is when I ask the question: “For how many of you has life turned out as you had planned it?” The answer is always the same, in groups people turning to each others sometimes though grins, sometimes through tear and saying basically “no, not at all like I planned”.
So, as I rejoice this Christmas with all three of my children in my house with me and Debbie. I realize that none of us are where we thought we would be at this stage of life. In some ways it has been pleasant surprises, for some periods of struggle. But I am reminded by shepherds whose lives were blindingly interrupted and by Persian astrologers who made an very long, unexpected trip and felt as if their lives were threatened; that this Savior, who is “the Messiah, the Lord” is with us every step of the way. “He is able, he is able, he is willing, doubt no more”. Merry Christmas.