Someone recently asked me what my ‘word for the year’ would be. (If you‘re not familiar with this concept, may I recommend One Perfect Word, by Debbie Macomber which encourages readers to intentionally focus —and act— on a single word for a whole year.) I took a moment to ponder this. The first thought that popped in my head was the word I would use to describe 2021: UNCERTAINTY. Then I considered what the opposite of that might be and ASSURANCE is what came to me. I give the Holy Spirit total credit for putting those words in my feeble mind.
UNCERTAINTY. We’ve all been feeling it. Even the few things we thought would be predictable have turned out to have twists: vaccines, elections, the weather, the economy. In my family it’s been multiplied: post-graduation plans, vacations, careers, elder-care decisions all put in a permanent holding pattern. Added to that were various emergencies that needed immediate attention: home repairs, health issues, technology problems. And then the cloud of uncertainty began to rain with two pet deaths, an extended hospital stay, an upcoming surgery and a cancer diagnosis.
What I learned from all of this is that humans really need a certain amount of certainty in order to function. Worldwide, I think we’ve exceeded the recommended amount of uncertainty, and this is perhaps what has led to so much stress, anxiety and dysfunction by so many people in so many places.
This was definitely the case in Israel in the Year 0. The weary world had been waiting. A Messiah King who would be Savior to the world had been prophesied from long ago. He had been implied since the beginning, in the Book of Genesis, and written about often in the Book of Psalms. Isaiah 7:14 says “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). That was written somewhere around 740 to 700 BC!
By Year 0, though, uncertainty reigned, and most had given up even hoping. Yet, a few were ‘joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer’ and had a steadfast assurance that God would be with us in the person of Messiah. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.” -Luke 2:25 “There was also a prophet, Anna…. She was very old; … She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” -Luke 2:36-37 I suspect that there were some in Israel who thought they were wasting their lives spending so much time at the Temple, praying and waiting and believing with assurance that Messiah was on His way. I’m sure there had been others in all those hundreds of years who believed fervently but never got to see the Christ. They were all correct – He came! – and they are all certainly in Heaven now waiting for Him to come to earth again.
We, too, are waiting. “For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.” (It Came Upon a Midnight Clear) What a wonderful promise! Christ was coming. Christ has come. And Christ will come again!
The old Christmas hymns do not ‘sugar-coat’ life on earth. Many were written in desperate times of persecution, war and upheaval. Even in our affluent, digital age of instant everything, there is still plenty to be patient through and to pray about. My prayer list has never been longer. So how did they – and how do we get from anxiety and affliction to joy? How did Simeon and Anna? ASSURANCE! The ‘hope’ we’re supposed to be joyful in, is the ‘blessed assurance’ that Jesus is ours and we are His! In The Redemption of Scrooge, Matt Rawle defines Joy as “the steadfast assurance that God is with us.” Jesus, himself, promised in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Sure, life is hard. It’s full of uncertainty. But the antidote to uncertainty is ASSURANCE: assurance that God is with us; assurance that if Jesus is our Savior, we are children of God with Heaven as our inheritance; assurance that the Holy Spirit will come into our hearts to comfort and guide us; assurance that ‘although the wrong seems often so strong’ God is the Righteous Ruler and has already won the war! Christ, the Prince of Peace, is coming again to claim His Kingdom, wipe away every tear, and make every believer fully whole and perfect! REJOICE! REJOICE! Immanuel has come to thee!!
Wishing a Merry and Joyful Christmas to you and yours,