“There’s no such thing as self-rescue,
pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The cost of rescue is beyond our means…”
Psalm 49.7-9, The Message
I’ve tried self-rescue
a thousand times
and truly, it’s never worked.
Autumn invites me to let go,
surrender my self-rescue efforts,
which really just looks like control,
and surrender to the slow rescue
of a new season,
like Advent will soon also invite.
I write these words as September ends, October begins, and I start thinking of this Advent study that I’m determined to write. Psalm 49 met me in that transition with these words, and my psalm-like response prompted a rewrite of all my notes for an Advent study around this phrasing: the slow rescue of a new season.
I thought, well, that sounds like Advent, right? A slow rescue.
First, there’s the years of silence, longing for God to speak again, rereading prophecy after prophecy, hoping against hope that God would someday return to this people, their nation, and their longing for rescue from oppression once more.
Then, there’s a childless but faithful couple, an oxymoron in those days, wherein the husband approaches an altar to appease God on behalf of the people, only to have God reverse their personal story of grief and pain and waiting that had cast a long shadow over their lives.
Next, their cousin anxiously surrenders to an angel who says she’s favored, loved, and chosen, for a task that will at times seem to much for her, and she becomes pregnant without her fiancé’s involvement, to the shame and detriment of her family, but to her secret joy and—even more mysterious, redemption.
It takes time for that baby to grow, learn, and evolve into a man, unlearning the religion he grew up with for relearning the Father God he has known before the world was made, a mystery too great to understand and yet worth the journey of watching his feet, his hands, his face still meet us in our stories today.
I think this Advent season, God is inviting us to slow down, to see the rescue at the pace it took, instead of at our own lives’ breakneck speed in which we live frantic, moment-to-moment lives that too often miss his slow work in our lives.
Together, we will explore the themes of hope, faith, joy, and love, with an eye towards this slow rescue, this gently paced story of real humans, real lives, real heartaches, and real questions. We will not overlook pain or sorrow, shame or grief, in order to rush ahead to the story’s happy ending. Because, if we’re honest, the story doesn’t have a happy ending—not yet at least. Our lives are still just as in the mire as the characters in the Advent narrative. Our hopes are still just as unseen as the greatest characters of faith we read. And our hearts and minds are still on a steep learning curve concerning what it means to be rescued people.
God didn’t rush this story. Why would he rush ours?
Week One: Hope
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all.
– Emily Dickinson
What comes to mind when you think of hope?
Take a deep breath and just sit with that question for a moment.
Hope has always been a downhill slope for me, a slippery sort of place, where I start off lofty and high, but always end up back in the mud. I’ve had hopes for relationships, for places, for callings, for so much, and I’ve had most of those dashed with reality’s grit. Does that mean I dare not hope? No, on the contrary, I keep choosing it, because hope—and even its downfalls—has taken me to some of the deepest places of growth and dreaming.
Israel was plunged into this kind of muddy-hope place, for years. Almost 400 years, if we’re counting (and they probably were). For them, it was 400 years of silence. Prophecy had all but died out as they returned to their land from exile and began to rebuild, re-settle down into the place of promise that had become a place of rejection.
And then, there was silence. They found their way forward, though, in reading and rereading the prophets, every day in their rebuilt Temple walls, and eventually in synagogues, outposts of the Temple, where anyone could gather and hear these prophecies read over them, hoping against hope that it would all come true one day.
Some of the hopes they read include:
You are our Father.
Abraham and Israel are long dead.
They wouldn’t know us from Adam.
But you’re our living Father,
our Redeemer, famous from eternity!
Why, God, did you make us wander from your ways?
Why did you make us cold and stubborn
so that we no longer worshiped you in awe?
Turn back for the sake of your servants.
You own us! We belong to you!
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion’s a ghost town,
Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?
Aren’t you going to say something?
Haven’t you made us miserable long enough?
Psalm 80 (NIV)
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
How long, Lord God Almighty,
will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
These words hold hope lightly, adjacent to Israel’s pain and questions, and I think that’s important to note about hope. Hope doesn’t ask us to not feel, to not have other issues going on. Hope invites us to hold both—hope and the other true things we are facing. For Israel, that was hope and God’s unnerving silence.
What is that for you? What is right alongside your hope in this season?
You’re allowed to have both. Hope that maybe something else will come of this season, and pain that you’re still in the midst of it. Advent itself holds both—this great hope that a Redeemer, a Restorer, is coming, and this agonizing wait that sparks our own “How long?” uncertainties.
For further reflection:
- Look back at the passages on hope from the prophets and pick out the questions they asked of God that stand out to you. Why those questions? What areas in your life are you asking those same questions?
- What are the hopes you are carrying? Do you feel God’s silence, too?
- Where do you need him to speak to you? What areas are you holding hope alongside something else, like doubt or fear?
Week Two: Faith
I wondered if I could be as brave as he was, if I could be as faithful, if I could make eye contact with my unanswered prayers and keep praying anyway.
– Sarah Bessey
Let’s do this again, because I think it’s a good place to start:
What do you think of when you think of the word faith?
With a deep breath, take a moment to reflect or jot down some initial thoughts on faith.
Faith, for most of us, is tied up in action. Faith gives us a list of things to do. Faith is defined by actions: belief in God, doing things for God, saying things about God, etc. We’ve been indoctrinated to not separate these two things. Faith must be acted upon, or it is not faith at all. Faith must have fruit or it cannot be true. Some of this is true, sometimes there is action inherently involved in faith, sometimes the two need to be side-by-side.
But on the other side of this indoctrination, there are stories of faith that we don’t talk about. We skip over the hard parts of faith to the easier side, where faith is typified and seen in black and white.
Zechariah and Elizabeth have such a story: a story mostly of faith behind the scenes. The silence of God affected them personally. For them, it was most acutely felt in childlessness. In our modern culture, infertility is a science issue, an issue of broken bodies trying to not be broken anymore.
But in Zechariah and Elizabeth’s day, infertility was a consequence. God, or even the gods in their wider Roman culture, was unhappy with you. You were not blessed. You have done something wrong. Your faith is not enough.
And I think they felt that deeply. There’s so much that the gospel writers don’t say about this husband and wife. Zechariah was a priest who occasionally served at the altar of God; Elizabeth was his beloved wife.
“Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless…”
They were faithful. They had faith. And yet they did not have children, something not understood as anything other than a sign of bad faith.
How do we reconcile those two views? Faithful, but childless? In those days, there was no reconciliation. There was only scorn and shame, felt so deeply that when God breaks into their story and announces that they will—finally—have a child, and not just any child, but a prophet, that Zechariah’s faith faltered completely beneath the absurdity and questions surrounding such a miracle. He stood by the very altar, the presence-place of his God, stared an angel in the face, and said, “Do you expect me to believe this?” (Luke 1.18).
Faith in the God of the silence, the God of no miracles, the God of 400 years of waiting, was one thing. Faith in a God who would take an old couple and give them a child? That’s a whole different belief to ask for. That’s much harder faith.
Do you feel allowed to say that faith is hard?
We often read this story and criticize Zechariah. He did not believe, and so he experienced nine months of silence while Elizabeth grows and bears baby John. But what if there is faith there, just a different kind? A hard faith, a faith that maybe doesn’t know what to say anyway?
Zechariah’s vocal cords finally untangle when he breaks Judaic norms and writes on a stone, “His name will be John,” instead of the expected Zechariah. That was what the angel said it would be, so that is what it had to be. That’s faith, too.
Faith isn’t easy or all action. Sometimes faith is silence. Sometimes faith is looking God in the face and saying, “I don’t know if I can believe that.” Sometimes, faith is just plain hard. And we need to accept that before we can keep moving deeper into this story.
We need to reconsider these stories and heroes of the faith as humans, not black and white examples of what to do and not to do. Zechariah had to learn his faith, with nine months of silence and internal dialogue, and sometimes we do too. Sometimes we even need to unlearn it. Like the faith that taught us to always act, always speak, always have a reason to give for it.
Let’s allow faith some silence, some breathing room, some rest.
For further reflection:
- Read Luke 1.1-25. Reflect on any new things you notice about this story and about what faith looks like throughout it.
- What did you grow up believing about faith?
- What does this story teach you about faith, now?
- Where do you feel that faith is hard? How can you lean into the hard, silent areas and still trust that God is there, that faith can still be faith when hard or doubtful or asking questions?
Week Three: Joy
Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest.
– Paul Cohelo
OK, by now you know the drill. Deep breath.
What comes to mind for you today with the word joy?
When I think of the word joy, I first think of a person, a neighbor at one point in my life, who hurt me. I was young, and so naive, but it is a painful memory to have associated with a word that was first a proper name for me, before it was a feeling that I could name and experience.
The hurt and trauma I survived in that season was deep, and led to a dark depression, and so, for a long time, I simply didn’t feel joy. Sure, I’d have light moments of laughter and fun, but deep down, I was still very sad. Joy, true joy, took a long time for me to find.
I think that’s because joy isn’t meant to be a small emotion; joy is meant to be deep, abiding, a special kind of feeling that doesn’t easily come, or go. The dictionary defines it as great pleasure or happiness.
How do you define joy? What does it mean to you?
To me, joy is not something we typically stumble into accidentally. It’s something we mine for, we search out. We accuse things of not bringing us joy—clothes, jobs, people—instead of searching out where we might find joy for ourselves. Especially when dealing with depression or anxiety, we often have to kind of force ourselves to find some joy, however small, in order to alleviate the dark cloud hovering over us. Another name this joy-search goes by is self-care, and I think it is appropriate to find joy in those kind of places.
The problem with looking for joy in the Bible is that we often assume joy. We don’t read between the lines or think about the human being behind the verse, we just assume joy. I think this is done with Mary most of all. Perhaps because she is so revered, or maybe just because she said yes to something so massive: mothering God himself.
Either way, we read her words back to the angel Gabriel and think, “Poof! Joy! Joyful servant of the Lord.”
But let’s not forget that three verses earlier, she was terrified and wondering how on earth she could be favored by God. Her faith, and ours, does not automatically equate to joy. Such a surrender was costly. She has to flee town immediately to go see her cousin Elizabeth, not just to check on the angel’s words, but to also hide out as the news of her unplanned pregnancy spreads through her hometown. This is not an easy, let alone joyful, story that she has signed up for—at least not yet.
It’s with Elizabeth and Zechariah that the words spoken to her, “Nothing is impossible with God,” are proven true. Elizabeth, in her old age, is pregnant, and so she will be soon too. Elizabeth rejoices immediately—joy bubbling up from a leaping baby within her—as she realizes the story God is orchestrating. And Mary receives that joy with a song of her own (Luke 1.46-55 NIV):
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Her joy is different than one might expect. It’s prophetic and holy, a song that echoes through time, boundless and always true. Her joy, really, is barely about her own part in this story that she’s beginning to learn. It’s rooted in what God is doing instead. “This is what he is doing, this is what he said, this is who he is!” she sings, each line growing stronger and louder as her joy grows, just like the child within her.
What can we learn from Mary’s joy?
I think that sometimes our search for joy, our methods of self-care, etc, tend to fall short when we need them most. We awake heavy on a dark winter morning and reach for coffee, a journal, a good meal—and still feel terrible at lunchtime. We keep going, we keep searching, and we keep coming back without our own song to sing, am I right? Do you feel that same ache?
The secret to understanding, learning from, and even singing along with Mary’s song is to realize that she felt that way, too. Read between the lines—Mary feels low, poor, unblessed, looked over, hungry, needy. She sings what she is just beginning to grasp: that God desires to undo those feelings, pull back the veil between silent God and desperate people, and write a song of joy around their lives. And he’s doing so through her, through a baby in her womb, through the slow crawl of pain and growth and learning that all have to happen in this process.
Mary sings from the places that ache within her. She rejoices because she’s learning that there is more to the story than she ever dared imagine. She rejoices because she senses that all she fears and hopes for and worries about will be turned around, redeemed even. She sings, seemingly without a care in the world, because she cares so much to see joy come, really come, from heaven to where she is. To where we all are—a place so lacking in true joy sometimes. A place in need of a song.
For further reflection:
- Read Mary’s song in a few other translations. What phrases stick out to you? What aches do you relate to? What joy do the words give you today?
- Write your own magnificant—your own song of joy. Start with the aches you want to see reversed and sing knowing that, one day, they forever will be.
Week Four: Love
“There is absolutely no salvation without love:
this is the wheel in the middle of the wheel.
Salvation does not divide. Salvation connects.”
– James Baldwin
Here we go. Last week of Advent. Same question, with a slight twist, so read carefully.
What image appears in your mind when you think of love?
For a long time, for me, that image that typified love for me was perhaps what some of you imagined as well: the cross of Jesus. After all, the cross was a display of very great love, the greatest love, Jesus said: “No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13 LEB).
But I think a lot of us don’t exclusively associate love with that image of the cross; there’s also shame there. Shame says things like, “I deserve that. My sins put him there. I don’t deserve a love like this.”
Do you relate to that sense of shame, even while believing the cross to be a symbol of love?
Going back to the beginning of the story, well before the cross, can help us divorce that shame from our view of love. Because this whole story started with love. I know we all know John 3.16, and it is perhaps way overused, so here’s a paraphrase of that verse with a bit more context alongside it:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
These verses come a little later, but think about the actual story of love that God orchestrated in how he sent Jesus—not as an adult to go straight to a cross, but as a baby. And not just any baby. A baby that, by human standards, was born in shame.
Mary was unwed and this pregnancy was unplanned. I do not think that God chose those circumstances merely because of the miraculous nature of it. I think he chose it because of the human nature of it. It reeks of shameful circumstances. She likely would’ve been shamed and ostracized. Joseph almost ended the engagement over it, to save her from further embarrassment. But God wasn’t bringing a story of shame, judgment, or destruction into the narrative, right? He was continuing a story of love.
This is how much he loved us. To subject his own son and the nuclear family he was born into to shame, and to do something amazing with it. To show the world who he was and what he thinks of shame; namely, that it can be made beautiful. That it can be redeemed. And that we can be set free from its white-knuckle grip on us and even on our views of God’s love for us.
Because I feel like for many of us, his love has been haunted by this other side, this shame, that continues telling us that we aren’t worthy of his love. But the truth is, we’ve always been worthy of his love. The cross doesn’t make us worthy, it makes us holy—there’s a difference. Our holiness is something we receive from him as we learn to trust Jesus and learn to be like him. Our worth is a fundamental marker of identity, unmoved by circumstances, born in us from our creation.
So I have to ask, do you know that you are worthy of love?
And not just worthy of any kind of love, either. Worthy of the love of a father who chose to send his son to us, knowing that he would be ridiculed and rejected and nailed to a cross for speaking against religious authorities, so that our shame could be redeemed. This is the kind of love we’re worthy of.
Years later, Jesus would wrap a towel around his waist and do the lowliest job that his disciples could imagine. He washed their dusty, dirty feet.
And he called it love.
Peter felt ashamed of his feet when Jesus tried to wash them, and said, “No. Never. Don’t touch my dirty feet.” Jesus’ response was, “If you reject this service, you reject me.”
Further shame filled Peter, “Then wash all of me!” he yelled, as if about to rip off his tunic.
“You are already clean,” Jesus said, and echoed later in the evening as well, reiterating their worth and his love in the face of their already ankle-deep shame.
This is the mystery we are invited into, not only when we receive love, but when we give it away, as Jesus instructed after he washed their feet (John 13.17). Because that’s how this story continues—God gives love; Love washes our feet; now we go and wash others’ feet. Not because we are shamed into action, thinking that this is how we earn his love for us. No, we do it because we ourselves are loved, worthy of love, and so is every single person around us.
This is how much God loves us.
For further reflection:
- Some of Jesus’ last words were on love. Read them and meditate on what he says about love in John 13-15.
- Explore where you might feel shame about being loved. What is God revealing to you about his love?
- Who might you remind this week that they too are worthy of love?
There was no room at the inn. At least not a proper room.
Mary and Joseph had to journey from their small town to a suburb of Jerusalem, where Joseph lineage was from. This was a political edict that drove a heavily pregnant woman and her husband to travel; otherwise the story might’ve been very different.
They travel and travel until they reach the city, Bethlehem. Pain had been growing in Mary’s back and belly along the journey, and not just due to the bumpy roads. She knew her time was coming, that her body was preparing for birth. But where could they stay?
They went to a large home where they knew other travelers would be staying, but there was no room for them there. At least, not the way we imagine rooms. Overflowing with guests, the proper rooms and areas for sleeping were full. But a room just off the main part of the house was still available; its only occupants were the family’s farm animals. But the straw was warm, and Mary could finally sit and rest her weary feet. It was snug and smelly, but a resting place nonetheless, and with plenty of people to help when the time came.
And the time came indeed. In those days, women gave birth on their feet, upheld by arms stronger than their own, other women gathering to cheer Mary on. The pain rippled through Mary’s body, but she held on to acquaintances’ hands and arms for support as she pushed this new life into the world, blood and water splashing the hard dirt floor beneath her. Another woman caught the newborn, and Joseph held him next, while Mary followed the contractions again to push the placenta free.
Finally, the pangs settled and so could Mary. “My son,” she whispered as Joseph handed the small bundle to her, nestling over her heart. “Our son,” Joseph echoed, though he knew those words were imperfect to explain the mystery of the last nine months. He had a dream the night she told him about the baby, and it strengthened him to stay with her and see this story through, however murky the beginning seemed. Something, someone told him to stay.
So here he was, kneeling beside her, holding her hand as she held the head of a perfect baby boy.
Mary took deep breaths to steady herself as she shook with the adrenaline of afterbirth. Flooded with relief, release, pain, and now love, love unlike anything she had ever felt before, the tiny newborn lay so still on her chest, so fragile and pure. “Jesus,” she whispered, testing the name on her lips. His lips followed suit, opening with the tiniest of wet clicks, as if recognizing the name for himself. After all, she thought, he’s known this name since creation. This is not new to him. Though, perhaps, everything else is, this one thing remains familiar—he knows his name.
For further reflection:
- What strikes you about this retelling of the manager scene?
- Place yourself in the story. What do you see, hear, smell? What do you like and not like about the scene?
- How does this story challenge or expand your view of Jesus as fully divine and fully human?
- Read the full story in Luke 2.1-7.
Jesus begins to cry, hungry and worn out from being expelled from the protective darkness in his mother’s womb.
Across town, in the fields nearby, a sheep stirs as if it’s heard something. He gallops away from the flock, and a reluctant shepherd follows him into the night, away from the warming fire with the other shepherds.
Another sheep bolts off, another shepherd gets up and walks. Another sheep, another shepherd. This pattern repeats until the fireside is emptied and the shepherds are walking towards their gallivanting sheep together.
Suddenly, the dark sky above them brightens, as if the sun has not just risen but appeared out of nowhere, while the surrounding sky remains dark. They stop and look up with their mouths wide open, wondering what has happened. Suddenly, among the brightness, there are figures, forms of—men? women? angels? It is hard to tell. And music, somehow there is music playing, but not like anything they had ever heard before. It has words, “Gloria, gloria,” but the shepherds do not understand the meaning. They just stare up, wondering what is happening.
A voice joins the chorus of sounds, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news, news of great joy for you!”
“For us?” one of the shepherds half yells.
“For you! For everyone!” the voice repeats.
“There is a baby that is born nearby, and he will bring you salvation. He is the long-awaited Messiah! You can find him wrapped up in Bethlehem.”
The shepherds barely knew what this meant, but they did know it was all anyone ever talked about when they talked about their God.
The voice fell silent, but the music continues. “Gloria, gloria, God’s favor rests with us! Gloria, gloria, we have peace, peace, peace!”
The shepherds looked at one another now, wondering about these words. “Let’s test them,” one offers, “and go see if we can find this baby wrapped up nearby.” They gather together, and another suddenly remembers their sheep as they begin to walk towards town. “What about the sheep?” he says.
“We’ll come back for them,” another answers quickly, leading the few men away. “If we find anything,” another mutters after him.
Some of the sheep follow their shepherds, unable to remain still in their fields. Their necks jingle with identifying collars, so they don’t get lost. The staffs of the shepherds remain in their hands, like men on a mission, clicking against the rocks on the path they walk.
They notice a bright star in the sky and, wondering if it means anything, follow its general direction until they come to a large house known for its eclectic pilgrim collection. They knock on the door, and simultaneously hear a baby’s cry. They look at each other in wide-eyed wonder—could it really be true?
The door swings open and they see the little family with the newborn baby, wrapped up snugly as the messengers had said. The sheep bumble past them towards the straw, at the behest of the young child who had opened the door. The shepherds go after them, but slowly, gently walking towards the child who apparently would change everything.
Yes, even everything for them.
For further reflection:
- What strikes you about this retelling of the shepherds receiving the news about Jesus?
- Place yourself in the story. What do you see, hear, smell? What do you like and not like about the scene?
- How does this story challenge or expand your view of God’s message about Jesus given to the shepherds?
- Read the full story in Luke 2.8-18.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
– Luke 2.19
In the Christmas story itself, in Luke 1-2, there’s a lot happening, and seemingly very quickly. People are moving, hearing, seeing, and doing throughout the story. But I love where Luke leaves Mary after the Shepherds leave—breathing slowly, treasuring what just happened, and letting her heart ponder the entirety of the story she has been invited into. It’s just one verse, but it slows everything down for me. It makes me sit a little stiller, put on a Spotify playlist of “Christmas Peaceful Guitar,” and take a deep breath right alongside her.
Life moves hurriedly for all of us, buzzing with busyness, and there is no better season that captures that fast pace of life, at least in our American culture, than this one.
But this Advent story has invited us to slow down, take deep breaths, and think about the themes that surround its characters and movements:
The hope that infused Israel’s waiting for their Messiah, even in a lengthy & difficult time period without new words from God of that hope.
The faith that is seen even in Zechariah’s silence, because there weren’t words to describe the impossible thing that God was doing, in giving him and Elizabeth a son.
The joy that intermingles with Mary’s trembling voice as she surrenders to carry this child and sings of the ways she, and her nation, still ache.
And the love that haunts this story, not because it is a storybook-perfect story, but because it is a deeply human story.
Which of these themes will stick with you over the next few weeks? How do you want to experience these themes in your own life?
I hope that we can stay moving a little slower, joining Mary in her pursuit of peace and in her savoring of this slow rescue that she got to play a major role in. After all, she got one of the slowest-moving roles of all: being pregnant with Jesus. She experienced the morning-sickness, the tiniest butterfly-movements, the swollen ankles. Nine months of waiting was a part of her journey in this rescue story.
Are we, too, willing to wait? Willing to be a part of the slow rescue story of God?
For some of us, that will look like waiting that looks a lot like Mary’s. For others, it will simply mean being faithful right where we are. For all of us, it will hold moments of ache and joy, hope and despair, love and frailty. And for all of us, the story’s slow-moving resolution and redemption will be worth it.
Take another deep breath and sit with that last phrase: It will be worth it.
May you remember that you aren’t earning your worth in this story.
You are loved beyond measure and you are worthy just as you are.
Just like Israel, and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph,
you too are chosen, beloved, enough.
This story will be worth it because you are worth it,
Worth the risk and the shame and the untimely death it would all bring,
Worth the rugged hope and stubborn faith,
Worth the hard-won joy and fragile love.
It will be worth it, every moment you’re living now,
And every one yet to come,
Because the story isn’t over yet, yours or ours,
the slow rescue is still happening all around us.