Remember Who Holds Us Fast

Things feel difficult and have felt that way for a while, and it seems like they might get more difficult before they get easier. Within my family, the feelings of “will this ever end” color daily life. Just when things appear to be settling, another verse of the same song emerges, reminding us that we are not in control.  

To stand together against this fear, my family gathers each evening, lights the Advent candles, and sings “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It is a beautiful liturgical rhythm. Like all liturgy, it’s designed both to form patterns of behavior and to shape the hearts, minds, and spirits of those who engage in it. Through it, we are challenged to slow down and to reorient ourselves to God’s presence and God’s promise: that He is with us, He has been with us, and — with a special poignancy in these trying years of pandemic and outrage — He will always be with us.  

Christmas itself is a clear reminder of God’s willingness to contend for His creation. That reminder feels especially necessary this year. This Christmas, we pause and remember that the anchor of God’s action in our world is firmly set. Christmas reframes our place in the tumult of day-to-day life by reminding us that there is a Light pushing back the darkness.

Rory Cooney’s Canticle of the Turning is especially meaningful to me at Christmas. One stanza captures the spirit of the season well:

Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.

Canticle of the Turning | Rory Cooney

Through His greatest gift to humanity, Jesus, God set a plan in motion that is bigger and better than any of our own. There is real, enduring hope that remains steady and intact, even while the winds of our present day whip around us. God is at work turning the world around and pointing us in His direction. As we celebrate Christmas once again, the unshakable reality of God’s presence and concern for His creation is reaffirmed and offers us the one thing we all most desperately need: hope that the Light that shines in the darkness still burns as brightly as ever.

Have a blessed, Merry Christmas, fully secure in God’s continuing promise,

Bryan Brown