Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Happy Advent! As I mentioned in a variety of different ways during last Sunday’s service, 2020 has been quite the year. It has been rocky and there has been a lot of waiting. Amidst all of that, there has been beauty, light, and creativity. Even in seasons of waiting, God is working. A few weeks ago, we gathered on Zoom for our annual All-Church Meeting. Towards the end of our time together, we celebrated the many ways God has been faithful to lead and guide us this year. Like the Israelites who broke out in song and dance in the middle of the wilderness, we took a moment to lift up thanks and praise for all that God has done in and through Cornerstone this past year. Kimberley put together a great video of some of those moments.
Now we find ourselves in Advent. The temptation is to rush through Advent and allow 2020 to fade away in the rear-view mirror as though it never happened. We must not do this. Instead, we have to look at what 2020 brought out of us, how it revealed who we are, and how God showed us who we need to be. I’ve had conversations with some of you about how you have connected with God more deeply in this season than ever before. Many of you have strengthened your dependance on and trust in God in this season. Our homes have turned into places of worship, living rooms have become appropriate places to break out in song and go to the Lord in prayer. Through our Zoom lobby, new connections have been made between people across generations and among people who normally go to different services or don’t see one another on Sunday.
At the same time, 2020 has also shown us the places where we need refining and growth. A group gathered this summer to talk honestly about how we, as individuals, and the church can engage in the work of racial reconciliation. One of the most politically divisive seasons I can recall challenged us to decide whether we would engage in difficult conversations or simply assume the worst of our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree. COVID has tested how we love our neighbors and protect and serve one another. The pandemic has also led us to evaluate our relationship with the Lord, our commitment to worship and community, and our ability to trust God and engage with one another even when things are less than ideal. Crisis within our church has required us to rely on one another, step into new roles, and depend on the Spirit to guide us. As I write these things, I recognize that there are some areas in which I have done well, and others in which I have fallen woefully short. Perhaps you feel the same way, too. That’s the funny thing about being human; no matter how much we try, we all fall short of perfection. Times of great trial often reveal both our strengths and the area where we are being called to grow. This is why we are continually reminded in the Scriptures to be putting on Christ. In clothing ourselves with Christ, we clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” and “we bear with one another… and forgive each other” and most importantly, we “clothe ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:12-14).
In Advent, we don’t wait idlily, but we are also called to prepare. In preparing, we honestly examine ourselves and consider where Christ is calling us into greater holiness and deeper acts of love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains this quite boldly, “God comes in the midst of evil, in the midst of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And in judging it, he loves us, he purifies us, he sanctifies us, he comes to us with his grace and love.” We can look truthfully at our imperfections because we have the knowledge of Christ’s grace and love; we know that God’s desire is that we would be made new. As we fully lean into the season of Advent, we would be remiss to simply wait for Christ to deliver us out of a dark year. We are also challenged to “prepare him room” in our hearts and allow Christ to sanctify us further so that we may be a people who are more ready for what is to come not only in 2021, but also for Christ’s ultimate return in glory. May we not be like the ones in Bethlehem who had no room for Christ (Luke 2:7). Instead, may we intentionally consider how we are being called to make more room for Christ within our hearts in this season and in seasons to come. My hope for you is this: While we may look back and see how 2020 has challenged us beyond belief, notice also how it has refined you, sanctified you, revealed truth to you, and encouraged you to grow.
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
- Isaiah 40:3-5
May we prepare faithfully together. See you at 10 AM this Sunday for our Advent Zoom service!
In Christ’s Peace,