Rev. Kathi's Message
One of the most familiar biblical passages to be read during Advent is from Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
At the time it was spoken, the whole world was falling apart, or so it seemed to the prophet Isaiah. Looking over history at a string of failed rulers, and staring into the abyss at ongoing chaos and political disaster, Isaiah looked forward to a time when God would send an heir to the throne who would be a different kind of ruler, a divinely appointed Messiah, and his name would tell his character. Isaiah promised a people whose hope was failing that a baby would be born.
And babies come from women, women who endure the discomforts of pregnancy and the excruciating pain of labour to bring forth life. Except for in the most tragic circumstances, the joy of birth comes after the culmination of many months of sacrifice and uncertainty by the mother in pregnancy and is her just due for hours or days of the agony and uncertainty of labour.
No wonder childbirth is a common metaphor in scripture for political crisis and uncertainty. Childbirth spotlights a mother’s sacrifice, discomfort, suffering, and the unknown outcome of her labour. God’s deliverance will come, but not without almost unbearable periods of turmoil, disaster, uproar, and darkness.
Advent arrives this year like it does every year, I suppose. Upheaval and turbulence everywhere. We are in unpredictable waters and uncharted territory. A scan of our newsfeeds vindicates our anxiety. It’s nothing but a tapestry of greedy corporate deals, shady political compromises, and a frenzy of unanswered questions about who colluded with whom, about what, and who knew about it when. Couple that with headlines about widespread death and destruction by humans against each other and scenes of nature hammering the earth.
Perhaps it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun; perhaps this is not the first time in history that Advent comes at a time when nothing feels normal. But for those of us who’ve been on earth for less than a century, this feels different. What does the future hold?
My prayer this second week of Advent is that we not give in to despair. Do not lose hope. The Messiah comes. But not without help on our part. Pregnancy is not just waiting but real work. Labour is a moral act. It requires pushing, yelling, sweating, focusing, bearing down on everyone’s part. Advent is not passive waiting but is a moral act of anticipation that will require collective acts of holding on and bearing down to bring about the change we want to see. The Messiah comes. But not without our help.