Hopes and Fears of All the Years
“I sobbed. Like…snotty, ugly-cry sobbed.”
These were my exact words to my brother last week. We were talking about listening to the prayers of a Reverend, a Rabbi, and a Priest at a televised Christmas celebration last week.
I don’t remember what they said, and it doesn’t even matter. What I do remember is that I was so moved by their prayers that I had to stop prepping dinner, turn off the stovetop burners, and head to the bench outside in my backyard. I couldn’t stop the tears.
Something about their words pierced through my heart like a bulldozer to fallow ground, unearthing all sorts of tender pieces that had been buried deep beneath hard, dry ground. But, even while talking about it to my brother the next day, I couldn’t find the words to describe what was going on inside.
Later in the week, I stood in front of my sink, hand washing all of the dishes we used for the day, because our power had been out close to 24 hours after the deadly storms swept through the Mid-South. There are two windows over my sink counter that look out into the cove on which we live. At that particular time of day, I am usually peering out over a fading sunset, and smiling at the colors peeking out behind the trees around our neighbors’ houses.
But, that night, I felt myself holding my breath and watching the cove grow darker and darker, until I could see nothing but my own reflection in the blackness just on the other side of the windowpane. My once familiar face had become nothing more than a faint silhouette, dancing about in the glow of a camping lantern I had hung in the kitchen while prepping and cleaning up our dinner.
The thought flashed across my mind: “Was it this dark when Jesus was born?”
I stretched my body across the sink and countertop to arch my head closer to the window, attempting to see any of the Christmas decorations in our front yard. I could barely see the outline of the cross we had staked into the ground before the storms arrived. I sighed as I resumed washing the dishes and thought to myself, “I’m glad I decided to paint the cross white this year.”
Since my husband was called into work that day, I was managing the home front solo, so I stepped outside to see if I could figure out how to add fuel to the generator. I’d never done that before, and I had no idea when or if we would have our power turned back on. I wondered if the generator and I were in for a long night.
It was so cold here – too cold to have to struggle through without heat, just after a sleepless, anxious night of storms. And now, all that was left was darkness, unknown, devastating newsreels, and an eerie quiet everywhere.
When I stepped out to check the generator, I realized I barely needed the flashlight I had tucked away in the stretchy pocket of my leggings. The moon was glowing so brightly, that I stopped and stared into its beam for quite a while – despite the wind’s cold sting.
What a sight to behold.
Again, I wondered, “Was this was it was like to follow a star the night Jesus was born?”
As the night forged onward, I couldn’t forget that sight, and the particular awe and comfort it brought to my soul in those moments.
A prayer. A cross. A guiding light in a dark night. These moments entwined themselves in my soul as I waited and watched through the night. And, as I tended our fire, the Holy Spirit was tending to my soul:
What is this tension between that which we long for, and the fulfillment of our desire? What is this place of waiting…wanting…hoping…watching…and how are we to live and behave within this space and time?
How beautiful the Star of Bethlehem must have been to the eyes of the Magi! How mysterious and foreboding! That which they had observed with their eyes was set as a beacon to guide them. It drew them, instructed them, and led them towards the answer for their souls. How comforting, yet mystical, was this Heavenly Teacher! Hope written in the sky.
And I realized: that’s what my soul craves now – in these darker days of disease, political upheaval, economic fluctuations, and the grief of innumerable losses great and small that cannot even be properly measured. My soul desires to be led towards that which fulfills all my desires: Jesus.
I wonder if the Magi were disappointed when they saw a baby in a stable. I mean, the Bible doesn’t say that they were. But, then again, it does tell us that they asked everyone within Jerusalem where the king of the Jews had been born. Obviously, they expected the newborn king to be born in some sort of noble household, and within the noble city of Jerusalem itself! They expected that the people of the city would be aware of the newborn king, and that they could tell them where they could find him. However, not even Herod himself knew that the King of the Jews had been born under his watch. No, Jesus was born, tucked away in a stable in Bethlehem…so obscure and unnoticed…except by angels and shepherds and those who followed a star.
What a comfort to know that the star was planned from ages past, appearing in the sky at just the precise time. What a perplexing sight – a king, who was the King of kings – meek and mild, whose mother was not a queen, but a common Hebrew girl using an animal’s feeding trough as a baby bed. Yet, they offered their gifts – fit for a king – without (recorded) grumble. They have found what they had been searching for: hope fulfilled.
The glow from the sky on a cold, silent night.
The prayers of the faithful to the God who hears.
The outline of a cross against the darkness outside.
I needed these things to comfort my soul, to direct my heart towards my Savior, as I wait for all that is to come – no matter what is to come.
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”