But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”
I turned the final page of my 2020 calendar yesterday. Normally this isn’t something I would think about. It would be part of the routine of a new month, an action as rote as turning on my desk lamp and opening my laptop. I might gaze at the new picture for a brief second while I secure the new page on the nail, but the day’s schedule would loom and my attention would be diverted.
But yesterday, instead of moving on to the next thing, I caught myself feeling the weight of the final month of the year and I allowed myself to mentally sift through the preceding months. Spring became summer, summer became fall, and now fall has given way to winter, with little to differentiate one season from another. I felt eager to remember the highs and content to dismiss the lows. I briefly recalled how much has changed in these short months that have felt like years.
It’s been a year like none other, hasn’t it? If you’re on any type of social media, whether Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you might have seen a popular meme that shows two pictures side-by-side, one labeled “how it started”, the other labeled “how it’s going”. In one version of the meme, the “how it started” picture shows someone or something, fresh and full of possibilities; the “how it’s going” picture shows the same person or thing, but tired or harried or worn down. I don’t know about you, but the notion of how it (2020) started and how it’s going resonates this Advent season.
Each of us can name countless losses this year. Our list of disappointments and missed opportunities is long. We’re weary of the struggle and the limitations and the restrictions that none of us asked for, but under which we all toil. And yet, here at the end of even this year, we are offered the promise of Advent. We find ourselves at the beginning of the season of hope, of possibility, of expectation, of anticipation, of joy.
Is there room for Advent this year? Can we carve out some space in our hearts for the angel’s words? In the scripture, the angel is speaking to Mary, but I believe the angel is also speaking through millennia to us today. “Do not be afraid”. In these words, I hear validation that yes, these times are scary and uncertain, and we don’t know what is going to happen next. But I also hear reassurance, as if a hand on a shoulder or a comforting embrace, reminding us to not be fearful for we are not alone. Instead, behold! The angel tells us that good news is on the way. And this year, couldn’t we all use some good news?
For Mary, and for us, the good news is Jesus. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Jesus came into an anxious and broken world that was desperate for healing. He offered the gifts of hope and joy and peace and love, and gave people a renewed sense of purpose and strength. I hope that you are able to open yourself to the gifts of Advent and know that we have nothing to fear, for behold, we are promised good news for all people!