In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were terrified.
In the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, much terror is associated with his birth but also much glory. Perhaps these experiences are more connected than we realize.
During the pandemic and worldwide unrest in 2020, we all have experienced our share of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety about the future. Our routines have been changed, our work disrupted, our relationships with many people have been distanced, and our health and well-being at every level has been disturbed and tested.
At the same time, we have likely discovered a more honest and direct approach to our faith, perhaps leaning on grace and God’s goodness more than ever before. We might describe this as glory—or at least an awareness of God’s presence during a dismal and distressing time.
A “Blue Christmas” has its advantages, especially if we are more aware of the challenges we face and are willing to approach them with honesty before God and others. We don’t have to have all the answers; we don’t have to be perfect; we don’t have to be without fear or trepidation. We can actually experience God’s glory through these tough times.
This year, our terrors may have beaten us from time to time—but we are still standing, and, like the shepherds in the fields, we may also have heard a proclamation or two, and we are still invited to take a journey with Jesus. This is an honest gospel—a recognition that our fears are real and often founded on reality. And the gospel compels us to embrace what God is revealing through goodness and hope—both personally and for the world.
Let this be our vision of glory. Let us walk in faith, not fear.
Todd Outcalt, author of Blue Christmas: Devotions of Light in a Season of Darkness, is senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.
This Advent, find hope amid the blues of 2020 by participating in This Blue Christmas: An Experience of Light and Hope in an Unprecedented Advent eCourse. Together, we will spend daily time reflecting on the light of the season, gather weekly for online worship, and engage in times of prayer and reflection on scripture with Blue Christmas author Todd Outcalt. Register today and receive a free copy of the book Blue Christmas..
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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