In other years, Advent marked my favorite part of the church calendar. All the anticipation and hope made me eager for Jesus. This year I’ve followed our Christmas preparation traditions, and the emotions and the “feels” of Advent have seemed empty.
The world seems especially violent this November and December; I know it is almost always violent, but somehow the weight of the evil seems much more pervasive. Maybe I’m just paying more attention rather than burying my head in the sand.
And as I sat through a choir concert last week with J and my mother-in-law, I found myself tearing up as I heard Robert Lowry’s hymn How Can I Keep from Singing at the close of the concert. The choir’s singing filled Orchestra Hall with hopeful, worshipful song. As they sang the chorus, “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I’m clinging,” I felt God’s warmth with me.
Even as life feels uncertain, even as I’m not sure how some things will shake out, I’m still hanging onto Jesus with a death grip. Jesus is worthy of that trust, and I can be confident, though waves crash overhead and storms arise, Jesus won’t drop me either.
Though I’ve only heard the words and tune of the hymn once, they linger with me on repeat in my head. And in the repetition, joy and hope bubble up from some mysterious place. How can I keep from singing?
Truthfully, we sought out the holiday train so I could put this quote and photo together. I’ve been struck by the vividness of the imagery in this Koyama quote I jotted down a few years ago. I wanted the electric lights and train together behind his words. Beyond that, I struggle with the image and quote.
Maybe the experience makes the words ring more truthfully — not because I experienced them lived out, but because I experienced the opposite. Waiting for the train and watching it pull in was not full of Christmas spirit, generosity or self-denial. Rather, people shoved and nudged their way past to stand in front of those who arrived before them. Families grumbling back and forth over others crowding their space. Me first. Me first. Me first. And I was sadly part of that bitter, selfish cry as I got aggravated with all the phones obstructing my photos.
Lord, have mercy. Teach me to walk in your ways Jesus, instead of mine.
Today, I’m weary of doomsday fear, anxiety and the shadow of death. I choose instead to cling to foolish, wild and crazy hope. I’m going to grip that helium balloon of hope for dear life.