Psalm 27; Malachi 2:10-3:1; Luke 1:5-17
As I reflect on the Advent scriptures for this day, the theme of a path prepared jumps out to me. I find this idea of the path to be challenging. As a Black woman, 2020 has been exhausting to say the least between the global pandemic (and the consequential deaths), scarcity of food and basic needs, massive job loss, policy brutality, political divisiveness and civil unrest. With all of the chaos of this year, the impact has not been felt equally. Black Americans have been disproportionately impacted by all of these things. The path toward freedom, peace, and Heaven on Earth feels so much further away. How sweet it must have felt for those who knew about the coming of Christ!? How wonderful it must have been to know that the event they and their ancestors waited on was almost over?
In Malachi, it is promised that the path was prepared for Elijah, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”(Malachi 3:10)
Despite the promise of the arrival of a savior, it did not happen right away. Israelites waited for 400 years —they were in a holding pattern. Multiple prophets spoke of the one to come and life went on as they waited. As we meet Israel in Luke 1:5-17, they were in an in-between moment. In between the promise from God and the fulfillment of that promise. In between oppression and liberation. In between the mundane and one of the greatest events in history. Zechariah was told by an angel of the Lord that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a child who would prepare the way for the Lord. (Luke 1:5-17) Very few people knew at that time that Israel was moments away from their generational prayers being answered.
Like we see in scripture of the nation of Israel, generations of Black people are connected through a threading of prayer, traditions, stories of joy, and stories of trauma. Black Americans whose ancestors were forcibly brought over to the US through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were in essence put into exile and slavery from their homeland. Since then generations of Black people have been in this “in between” of waiting from bondage and freedom. And right now the fruition of freedom that we have waited for feels so far away.
Despite how hard this year has been, I trust that God is present in the midst of the chaos and the time will come for victory. I imagine that Israelites felt like this after hundreds of years of waiting and being separated from their land. For generations, they experienced land of plenty and it was taken away. They had moments of conquering and then seasons of being conquered and experiencing exile. Several times Black Americans have had comparable feelings and experiences as the nation of Israel in scripture.
When we pray and wait for a prayer to be answered, we may cry and plead to God. We may have moments of doubts, moments when our hearts can grow weary in waiting. We may have moments when we wonder if God even has heard us. And wonder, where is the God of justice?(Malachi 2)
Reading the three scriptures from today was a much needed reminder that the waiting will one day end. There is a time for everything and every matter under heaven. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.(Ecclesiastes 3) All of this pain and sorrow will end one day. It will be replaced with justice and righteousness.
I want to leave us all with this charge of knowing that when we are in the in-between moments of transition, we may not know what is going to happen and understandably it gets scary and frustrating. But we cannot let it stop us from hope and action. Know that God is God and is at work, even when we can’t see it in all moments. In this season of Advent, let us wait on the Lord and long for the time to where we “will see the goodness of Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
As we wait in this season ponder these things. Where do you see God acting in the world? Where do you see hope? How can you take action to help goodness come to the land of the living?
God—our creator, redeemer, and sustainer, many of us are in a season where many people have heavy hearts and sorrow, instead of feeling the joy of this season as we celebrate the birth of Christ.
We pray for the time to come of sweet justice and peace.
Oh God, how we pray that in this season of waiting on the Lord that justice and righteousness will come to pass in the world. We can’t see where the path ahead is taking us, but we know you are on the path with us. In Jesus name, Amen.
Karyn Bigelow is passionate about sustainability and food security. She is currently a research analyst and project manager at Bread for the World Institute. In this role, Karyn researches the intersection of climate change and food security. While in seminary, she conducted research on environmental justice issues and the intersectionality of food security and womanism. Karyn serves on a steering committee for the American Baptist Churches’ Creation Justice Ministries. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was a junior fellow with Green Faith. Karyn holds a Master of Divinity from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a bachelor’s degree in social relations and policy from the James Madison College at Michigan State University.