Written by Kiersten Hill
In 2020, we saw a weary world. The lives of far too many loved ones were lost. Dreams were postponed. Trips were canceled. Financial hardship came to the forefront of many lives. Loneliness drenched us. Zoom fatigue was real. The dark nights of winter seemed more dark than usual. We woke up each morning not knowing when this pandemic would end, when our lives could go back to “normal.” Normal became wearing masks, seeing others outside, and keeping distance between those whom we wanted to hold close. Hosting people in our homes became a faint memory we once knew. The simple treasures of sharing a glass of wine or a game of cards by the fire seemed to become activities of the past.
As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough cause for a weary world, racial inequality was revealed to the world in ways that some hadn’t seen before. Precious lives were lost to gun violence. People were killed for crimes they did not commit. A weary world protested and cried out.
Between Australia and the west coast of the US, everything seemed to be burning. Our weary world burned and gasped for air, for some sort of relief. Our climate continued down a lamentable trajectory.
The world into which Jesus was born was weary, too. An unmarried young woman was told she was with child, and her soon-to-be husband was asked to trust that this woman’s pregnancy wasn’t what it looked like. God’s people were living in a culture that was foreign to them. The announcement of Jesus’ birth was unexpected and shocking. I’m not sure what else was happening in that world, but I have a feeling that the people living during that time experienced sickness and violence too.
And yet, for the weary world back then and the weary world today, there is hope.
When I survey the world around me, I see hope in the perseverance shown by a humanity that longs to connect with one another. Zoom calls. Outside gatherings. Game nights on the internet. Video greetings. The willingness to pause and listen and learn from each other. We are created in God’s image, and community is at the very core of our Triune God.
I also see hope in the creative solutions pursued by scientists, doctors, and leaders. In masks. In stay-at-home mandates. In vaccines. We are created in God’s image, and our God is the God of creativity. This is revealed to me by the beauty of the mountains, by the vast diversity in plants and animals and human beings, and in the constant yet changing seasons.
Our greatest hope, I believe, is the hope we find in Jesus Christ. A baby who was born in a stable because there was no room for him at the inn and grew up to show the world how to make room for everyone. Fully God and fully human, Emmanuel, God with us. A child who grew up to save you, me, and the whole world through his death and resurrection. God incarnate who freely gives us grace, not because we deserve or earn it, but because God loves us that much.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
And do you know what, friends? Emmanuel, God with us, is still here with us. God is with us in deep pain and in great joy. God is with us in the times of darkness and in the times of bright light. God is with us in our lonely quarantines and in our excitement around vaccines. God is with us in the uncertainty and in the glimpses of hope. God is with us through it all.
As we enter 2021, may you experience the thrill of hope that comes from encountering our loving, all-knowing, grace-giving Emmanuel, God with us.