Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
We have this wonderful pandemic practice that emerged at our church. Every weekday at noon, people can hop into our Zoom room and for 10 minutes we pray together with whoever shows up. That's it. Simple, brief, meaningful connection.
A few weeks ago when we were praying, my friend Ian offered an image that God's spirit was stirring within him. It was a picture of that moment after nearly every winter storm, when there is stillness and the sun eventually comes out and strikes the snow and ice, making it sparkle. It was an image about God's faithfulness.
I've continued to think about that moment, and about God's great faithfulness. My sense is that learning to embrace how God's faithfulness comes to me is a lifelong process that won't end anytime soon.
It would be wonderful if God always worked in the ways we desire, wouldn't it? If every injustice in the world gets fixed in my lifetime.... every marriage facing problems gets restored.... every addiction gets treated... every bout of depression passes quickly...every personal tragedy and heartache gets reversed and quickly forgotten.
But that's not the only way that God meets us. Certainly, sometimes things absolutely do get fixed, overcome, and restored fully-- praise God for that! I'm thankful for the times the sun comes out quickly and melts effects of the storm.
But we all know that many heartbreaking situations don't simply disappear. Many times, the impact of the storm stays right in front of us for many days... and it's in those circumstances that we find hope in the beautiful image of sparkling ice- remembering that God is still with us and creating something beautiful.
During this advent season we've been waiting eagerly for Christ's coming among us. Now, in these 12 days of Christmastide, we fully celebrate that God has come, and we explore the breadth of what that all means! But it's still winter. It's still cold and often dark, and though the light is growing, more storms are likely to come. How do we live in the thin place between the mysterious beauty of heaven and the heart wrenching realities of earth?
The way forward involves embracing God's varied forms of faithfulness. Sometimes we walk with God toward a changed circumstance, but many times it is toward a changed perspective.
When we welcome Jesus into our lives with his presence and grace and rescue, it is always transformative. Yet how we become transformed is anything but formulaic. When our world stays frozen, we trust God to transform the way we see the storm. The snow remains, but God's faithfulness changes our perspective and helps us notice the sun, not simply the ice. Our hearts become changed, rather than our circumstances. We learn to let go of the illusion of the perfect life. We learn to stop holding others to impossible standards. We learn to feel God's love breaking through our bitterness and isolation. We may have complained about the storm and the power outages and the frigid cold, but Jesus now helps us see that there is a newfound beauty on this side of the storm because God has never left us. In fact, we may even notice that the storm brought us to a place of trusting God's presence more than an ideal circumstance would. This is where we see light that dances on the ice crystals and brightens the world. The snow stays, but the sun helps new beauty emerge-- beauty like daily prayer meetings on zoom that didn't happen until the pandemic started! But also beauty like newfound trust, forgiveness, and strength to keep walking in love.
My friend pointed out that the beauty of the snow sparkling in the sun is a unique gift from God. It didn't have to be so beautiful, yet there it is: a "rainbow-esque" reminder that God even brings beauty out of storms.
Will we ever mature if we don't embrace this mystery? Whether our situations or our perspectives are transformed, both are beautiful signs of God's faithfulness, coming to us in love. Both remind us that newness and hope are possible. Both help us have courage to keep walking with Jesus into the new year even when tomorrow feels hard and uncertain.
It's Christmas, friends. God is at work. Jesus is here, amidst the storms. Have faith-- the light will change how we see it all.
Jesus, hear my simple prayer this year: help me walk forward in faith, hope, and love.