Throughout 2020 I have been amazed at how this year has invited us deeper into the stories of our faith. When the pandemic arrived, forcing us to isolate, I sadly, but somewhat jokingly, wrote to you, saying, “I bet you never thought you would give up church for Lent.” We all felt this dread that we were being thrown out of orbit from the planet of our faith, never to return. That fear has proven vastly unfounded.
Giving up church for Lent became more like giving up ways of doing church that we were comfortable with. That has not been a bad exercise, quite the contrary. Learning new ways of being church has not closed down our sense of possibility but, instead, opened our minds to new ways of being open and more inclusive as a church.
More profoundly, we did not lose our faith, but were introduced to it in a new way. I for one, found it easier to preach an Easter sermon, because we were closer to the experience of the disciples who, as the story goes, were also surrounded by political turmoil, filled with fear and practicing a lock down of their own. The stories of our faith actually came alive because we were all living in a context that had significant similarities with the original story. And now as we enter Advent, a season of waiting and longing, don’t we also know more clearly the things we long for, and what it’s like to practice the patience we need to wait for solutions to arrive?
In a way, the story of Christmas can be seen as the ultimate story to meet everything 2020 has thrown at us. It is a story of a frightened couple whose lives have been disrupted, seeking a safe place to call home. It is a story about shepherds, the essential workers of that day, being filled with fear as angelic messengers interrupt their lives with a challenge to embrace hope. It is a story about wise thought leaders seeking a new narrative, even crossing borders to find a new beginning with people of different cultures and ethnicities.
The Christmas story even happened during a census, a sign of political turmoil in that day. Christmas is the story of God becoming one of us, choosing to be right in the middle of our lives. The stories of faith did not float away into obscurity during 2020, they came alive, finding their way to the center of own story. So here we are, in the darkest time of the year, waiting and hoping for things to change. Welcome to Advent. May we all continue to discover that the stories of our faith are actually stories about our own lives. Both
Advent and Christmas are Whose Story Is It? about embracing a very old story as a very new story, discovering that their message continues to be birthed every moment of every day as we journey into the future. These stories are our stories. So, let us journey with a renewed sense of God’s love and presence in our lives, for unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Oakland
1707 Gouldin Road
Oakland, CA 94611
Sunday 7:45 am
Sunday 10:00 am (Livestreaming available)