Our reading for Week 3 of Advent focused on the fourth verse of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”. We recognize our personal burdens from this year, the griefs that seem too heavy to carry, and we cling desperately to God’s promise to carry them for us.
Unprecedented. Hard. Unending. Heavy.
For some, 2020 was frustrating and difficult, but many, this year felt like a burden that seemed too great to bear.
However, the adjectives used to describe this year do not belong to us alone. Every generation of hurting humanity can rightfully sing along with the 4th verse of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
The good news of Christmas is that these heavy words are not the end of that carol’s verse, nor are they the end of our story. For into this dark and difficult world shines the hope of the prophet’s promise in Isaiah 53:4: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” And to all those who are bending low beneath life’s crushing load? To them rings the Savior’s invitation of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
All throughout this hard, heavy year, God has faithfully given us the grace to rest in him. He has formed Exodus into a family that gathers round to support those who are hurting and troubled. He has empowered us to live out the call of Galatians 6:2, to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Our congregation has walked alongside one another in loss, hurt, and anxiety, and has generously provided practical assistance for the most vulnerable in our community. Because of God’s grace, working through the hands and feet of His people, we have not taken our painful steps alone.
Advent reminds us that what is truly unprecedented, truly unending, is God’s love and light that was incarnated at Christmas. So even as we long for Christ’s second Advent, we can rejoice in his first coming and gladly live the rest of the carol’s verse that calls us to:
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!