By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Christmas Eve worship, 2014. I was pregnant and uncomfortable. I sat, facing the congregation, belly bulging under my robe. I wondered, “How could I possibly have to use the bathroom again?” I lumbered into the pulpit and read Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Song of Praise.
A moment I will not forget. A text full of faith, Mary’s faith. A belly full with the hope and promise of new life, my daughter’s life. A congregation full of love and grace, colleagues and family and friends worshiping together.
Yet, I felt uncertain, a little sad, even. My husband and I were in the final stages of discerning a call to a new place and a new season of ministry. As I mentioned before–uncomfortable. In a matter of weeks, my family moving across the country, newborn and all. Christmas Eve 2015 would look different, but how?
In Luke 1, Mary and Zechariah are on their own Advent journey. When Gabriel visits Zechariah in the temple, Zechariah is overwhelmed with fear. At times on this 2015 journey, I have been like Zechariah—fearful, ready to quiz God, unable to believe what’s right in front of me.
When Gabriel visits Mary, she responds by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant.” At times on this 2015 journey, I have been like Mary—faithful, pondering what God is doing, open to what’s next.
Though their journeys are quite different, Luke 1 ends with both Mary and Zechariah praising God. Praise from the willing servant, Mary. Praise from the unbeliever-turned-believer, Zechariah.
Transition has, indeed, been our family’s primary experience this year. Master’s degrees completed, new jobs begun, a new baby, a cross-country move—a blur. Yet, as Christmas Eve 2015 comes into focus, I am profoundly and humbly grateful. As God did in Zechariah’s heart, God has turned my unbelief into praise and gratitude. As God did in Zechariah’s heart, God has turned my fear into faith.
May praise, gratitude, and faith find you on your Advent journey.
Tender and Merciful Lord, fill our hearts with praise. When we are fearful. When we are faithful. Turn our eyes to the horizon where Christ’s light breaks upon us, from which Christ’s light breaks through darkness and death. Turn our feet, O Lord, toward the pathway of Peace. Amen.
A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Hannah Coe serves as Associate Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. Hannah and her husband, David, are parents to Katherine and Annalina. They enjoy playing, eating, and the occasional nap.