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Pastors Corner: The sound of hope


Last updated 12/31/2020 at 7:39am

Unprecedented. Isolating. Revealing. Complicated. Joyful. Flexibility. Essential. Humbling. Growth. Pivotal. Unpredictable. Emotionally and spiritually challenging. Creativity. Risk mitigation. Lonely. Opportunity. Hopeful. Resetting. Renewing. Re-prioritizing. Devastating. Awakening. Compassionate. Uncertainty. Grateful. Scary. Resiliency. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Apocalyptic. Revealing. Weird. Preventable. Unimaginable. Hard. These are some of the many words that could be used to describe the last year.

2020 has been some kind of year. We have experienced a pandemic, racial injustice, environmental disasters, massive amounts of death, and political unrest. So the new year, 2021, is a welcomed sight that many of us are finding hope in. The possibilities seem almost endless - a clean slate, a do-over, a second chance. New Year's resolutions will come flooding into our minds. Weight loss. Exercise. More reading. Less drinking. Quit smoking.

But as the pandemic rages, 2021 is realistically not going to give us a renewed feeling or a clean slate. It will not erase the aftermath of a divisive government nor will it magically eradicate systemic poverty or racism. 2021 will bring even more death, more climate change, more partisan leaders, and more questions about our humanity and our responsibility to keep one another safe.

With all that has happened to us this year, resolutions and empty promises are not enough for our world or for ourselves. One of the things that I love most about the Christmas season is one simple truth remains - Emmanuel, God with us. It's a prevailing belief that somehow, someway, God is indeed with us in the muck and mire of our current realities - with us, alongside us, in, around, through, above, and below us. Jesus, God in the flesh, embodying the way of Love from which we can learn.

The real Christmas story isn't clean, neat, or tidy. It's a crazy, wild story: God, choosing to reveal himself in a human baby born to unwed parents in a dirty stall filled with animals and chaos. The least likely people are the ones drawn to him while royalty wants to kill him. But the images we often see of the Nativity look perfect and serene, with an adoring Mary gazing at Jesus while the animals watched.

I don't know where you are specifically, but I know that in my story right now, each day is a stretch to make it through, and in the midst of all our pain is the pain of so many others in my circle - losses, deaths, addictions, mental illnesses, despair, pandemic concerns, identity crises, homelessness, loneliness. It's a lot to hold. The thought of a neat and tidy God is not only not comforting; it makes me want to run the other direction.

But the thought of Jesus as a human being all tangled up in the mess of real life and all of the dynamics of pain, suffering, confusion, shame, exhaustion, and perseverance in the midst of these things - that's a story that draws me in.

Chances are that at some point, each and every single one of us will find ourselves asking the question, is this season of my life ever going to pass? Will I be able to make it through this? Will I ever be able to experience the joy and the life I once knew?

In the midst of these seasons, may we find comfort in the God who tells us that one day the darkness will give way to light. May we find assurance in the God who tells us that things like unemployment, shattered dreams, depression, diagnoses, and even death will never have the final word for those whose hope is in the Lord. Lastly, in the midst of it all, may we give thanks and praise to the God who never leaves nor forsakes his children. The true meaning of Christmas reminds us there is always hope despite our present suffering. We are faced with this paradox daily in our own lives as we wrestle with the present suffering of this world and the hope we have in Christ.

Recall that we are so loved that we ought to go and do likewise and that, always, until the very end of the age, he is Immanuel - God with us.


The Rev. Maggie Lewis

First Presbyterian Church, Havre

Chinook Presbyterian Church


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