Songs of Hope

Field Guide for the fourth week of Advent

December 16, 2022 

As we light this fourth Advent candle, we remember the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel which means God with us.

Come Lord Jesus kindle in our hearts songs of your presence. Amen 

This week, let us talk about presence. Our scriptures point us to the name of God, Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” When Mary gave birth to Christ in a stable with animals looking around, the name Emmauel was made manifest for us. It is comforting to think of how human Jesus was: Jesus was an infant who probably didn’t sleep through the night and eventually a toddler who had to learn how to walk. He experienced the fears, anxieties, and struggles of life that we know all too well. He was “God with us.” He saw the ways folks are prone to treat each other when love is not the motivation; he knew the loneliness of doing life alone; he saw what it looked like when the powerful oppress the few based on ethnicity. He heard his mother sing about it. It is comforting to know that Christ experienced the joys, fears, pains and challenges of life for 33 years. 

Presence or knowing someone is with you is a powerful thing. It is a potent feeling if you have someone in your life who is your ride or die… a Thelma to your Louise, so to speak. Whether it is a best friend, family member, or life partner, having someone who has your back is pretty special. Their presence is a witness to your life. They don’t let you disappear. If you have that this Advent, do not let this year end before you let your heart be grateful for that person. Let them know it. If you do not have that person yet, then I am so glad you have found your way to Belmont UMC. Let us be your family and be a loving presence in your life. 

Whether we have a journey partner or not, all of us know the shapes and contours of loneliness. I am thinking of those times when we face something alone or it feels like we are alone because it is difficult for anyone else to understand what we are experiencing (or so we think). One of the most powerful phrases in life is “me too.” Having someone say, “me too… I get what you’re going through; I went through something similar and I am so sorry. You are not alone” is game changing. If you are going through something hard this Advent, consider finding a trusted person and sharing it with them, or seek out a member of our pastoral staff. Let someone hold the pain and hardness with you so it is not quite so heavy for you. Know that your name is beloved; you matter and are so loved. 

May it be comforting to you this Advent that Emmanuel is the God that we worship. Christ lived on the same earth that you and I walk upon and knows what it feels like to be alone. I imagine hanging on a cross, betrayed and alone, was just about as lonely as someone can get. This is the God we follow and to whom we have dedicated our lives. You are not alone. Emmanuel is with us and actually knows what it is to be a human here on this earth. Praise God that Emmanuel is with us. 

If you are available, make plans to join us this Christmas Eve for our Candlelight service. It is certainly a beloved tradition at Belmont, but it is also so much more than that. We gather to proclaim that love was born into this world and that we follow Love’s name: Jesus Christ. We light candles to light the way into a better world called God’s kin-dom, where we are all kinfolk, we mutually belong to each other, and love wins. It is a kin-dom where loneliness does not prevail and we can live abundantly. So, our Christmas Eve gathering is proclamation that this kin-dom is here but it is also not yet here and that WE will be a part of its inbreaking. 

Thank you for taking the journey through this year’s Field Guides. I hope it has been a full and meaningful Advent for you and that if you haven’t already, that you really take time to reflect on 2022. Rich and abundant blessings to you this soon coming Christmas-tide, beloved one.