“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” —Luke 1:14 (NRSV)
The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth as presented in Luke 1:5-25 prepares for the Christmas narrative and speaks greatly to the challenges that the Corona pandemic has posed to us—impacting our time and planning and making many feel helpless and confused about the future.
It was not an easy experience that the elderly couple went through. They prayed all their lives to have their own child, and an answer didn’t come until their old age, when they started to feel weak and expected that their role was coming to an end. Suddenly, the angel Gabriel appeared and told Zechariah that they would soon have a son, and he would even play an important role in the coming of the Messiah.
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story challenges our thinking about when is the right time—when is God’s time? The story claims that every time is God’s time, even when we feel weak, helpless, and are discouraged.
Many of us are confused about how to serve with the new reality and challenges around us. Many feel weak to start anew in responding to what the Lord requires of us today. We too often desire to “serve” God in our time rather than discovering God’s time. But God opens new visons and encourages us to gain trust that God is with us, Emanuel is with us, and today is God’s time.
Today, we again approach the birth of a child, just as we are overwhelmed by the ongoing pandemic that confronts us and challenges us to face the growing problems around us. Many of us have lost relatives and friends or held the hands of people who could not breathe. We might feel weak and helpless as we recognize how ill-equipped health systems are, how far vaccine justice is from many countries, how women have been abused at home, and how children have been deprived of education and support during lockdowns. Not to forget the shrinking economies—life-threatening for many, especially those on the margins. Our limitations are exposed, our weaknesses are obvious, and frustration and dismay abound. Still, in this season Zechariah and Elizabeth remind us that this is God’s time. God is with us in the midst of our struggle and pain and weakness.
But how can we rejoice this Christmas? We rejoice because, as did Zechariah and Elizabeth, in the midst of our challenges we discover that this is God’s time, and we see light in the difficult circumstances as we believe in the power, wisdom, and timing of God, who so loves our world. We celebrate hope through the birth of the baby Jesus, born in difficult circumstances, far from home and under the threat of death.
Let us trust that God is with us. Let us trust that we are in God’s time. Let us trust that God is at work. Let us trust that, as siblings in Christ, gathered through a communion from around the world, we will continue to persist together.
Our communion life strengthens our confidence in God’s guidance. We keep our eyes wide open to the injustices of this world. We confess God’s justice against all attempts to normalize marginalization, oppression, and abuse. We witness in our many attempts to further peace and justice. And we allow ourselves to be Reformed by God, who sustains us and gives us the strength to persevere in times of crisis.
Rejoice, God is with us! It is God’s time!
To God be the glory in the highest heaven, and may peace come to God’s people on earth!
President Najla Kassab
The Collegial General Secretariat: Hanns Lessing, Philip Vinod Peacock, Phil Tanis