A colorless, heavy sky touched my face as I stepped from the warmth of the car, suddenly jarring me into a heightened awareness of time. This was not the typical attention to my clock calibrating the hours or minutes between this and the next color block that filled my daily calendar, but the acute recognition of the speed by which pages turn. The moisture of the bitter wind slapped my cheek, stinging with the reminder that the hot sun on our backs and the warm river on our ankles as we launched kayaks, was not yesterday, but suddenly a full season ago. Now the winter bleakness served as a reminder of the tired feet held captive to thick socks stuffed in boots; a metaphor to the season, this next chapter I just woke to.
Trudging from the darkened covered garage toward the sidewalk path, I found myself walking to a slower tempo than my norm, aligning my steps with a handful of others following the columns of lights, heading in the same direction. Who was there for support, and who was there for them? A pleasant warmth of light in the gray morning beckoned each towards our destination, double doors automatically opening to usher us in. For an instance, I felt I was somewhat of an inanimate object on the conveyor belt of life. I followed, entered where they did and turned where they turned, then shared my name with the receptionist. Imagining to be a disconnected photojournalist, not part of that tribe, I took a seat, watching the others, searching for signs in their expressions that might provide clues to understanding this particular season, as well as where they were in this journey. But I am not a photojournalist.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, I heard in one ear as the other responded to the call of my name.
I was weary. The passing year felt like a moving river I was required to cross with bare toes gripping onto each stepping stone. Every step needed intentionality and effort in determining the stability of the rock to place my foot and hold my balance. And not just me, but we, the community I move with and love and cry and celebrate alongside, we were, and are, weary.
Losses, twisting, with unexpected bends in the river. There’s been sickness, lament, lies, surprise endings, shootings, doubt, suffering, mourning…we’ve experienced a lot of messiness this year. Like the confused young husband questioning his new bride’s growing belly and the gentle virgin who embraced the assignment, together, endured a long, dangerous journey to bring forth a child at the most inopportune moment, in a holding place for domestic animals…we too are tired.
But for the thrill of hope.
I scan the waiting room at the tired faces. Does anyone in this place have a thrill of hope this Christmas? Is the beauty of the season, halls decked and lights twinkling, made even more magnificent when the weary world allows the heavens to break through its gray skies and biting winds to provide a firm footing on the rock, the fortress, the deliverer, my God, the rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and horn of my salvation, my stronghold? I am never alone. Are they?
“Good morning”, I smile to the man with the shirt caught halfway up his back. “May I fix your sweater for you?” His smile grows large with gratitude as he explains an incision that is preventing the mobility to reach. “Thank you”, he replies and delightedly shares the goodness of Jesus. I too join in on the praises. Then another adds to our conversation. And for a few minutes this tribe, drawn by time and circumstance becomes a unified, fortified and strong body of Christ in the middle of a little messiness and a whole lot of hope.
Let the weary world find strength, wake and look up to the hope brought through that child laid down in the mess surrounding that manger, who chose to live, work and love in the midst of our fatigue, stink and grunge. It’s time we rejoice. He knows messy, and He’s here to redeem it.