Hope: See the unexpected

Participate in the Advent Offering today at brethren.org/adventoffering . Photo by Mandy Garcia

Participate in the Advent Offering today at brethren.org/adventoffering .
Photo by Mandy Garcia

A reflection by Tim Harvey

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”(Luke 1:39-45).

As a pastor, it is tempting to stay on the well-worn path of Jesus’ birth through the season of Advent. But in Luke 1, the author shows us a new perspective. He pulls back the curtain to reveal what people were doing “when no one was looking.” How did the ordinary people who encountered God respond to the invitation to serve? This is an important question because if people like Mary and Elizabeth can say “yes” to God, so can you and I.

Because we’re accustomed to the story, it is easy to miss the magnificent risks Mary took by becoming pregnant out of wedlock, or how uncommon it was for people to take trips in that time. Yet Mary, an unwed, pregnant teenager, took a several-days-long trip by herself.

Consider Mary’s risks and motivations for visiting Elizabeth. Why did she leave so quickly? Did she need a trusted friend? Had her father kicked her out? Were the judgmental stares of her neighbors too much to bear? There were so many possible answers to Elizabeth’s question, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”

One lesson from this story is to notice that saying yes to whatever God calls us to do may take us places we never imagined. Relationships may need to be reexamined, and the place where we live might even change as we respond to God in ways that deemed socially unacceptable.

A challenge of this tradition-rich time of year is to stop long enough to notice what God is doing around us. Fortunately, Luke gives us a snapshot to help us see what God can do in the midst of ordinary people. How might God break in to our lives this Advent season? What do we need to do differently that would make room for a fresh infusion of God’s grace? Where do we need to go, to whom do we need to speak, that our eyes might be opened to how God is bringing hope in unexpected places?

Tim Harvey is the pastor at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. He wrote this and several other worship resources for this year’s Advent Offering. Read them all, order bulletin inserts, or give now at www.brethren.org/adventoffering .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

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