It can be so easy year to talk about all the traditions we wish we could enjoy but cannot now due to the pandemic or the limitations imposed because of it. I get that because I have experienced it as well. So many memories are etched in our memories of how this Advent season is “supposed to be.” If we are not careful, we can get lost there.
If we do, we could fall prey to what so many did during that very first Advent season. They had been waiting during 400 years of silence for the hope of a king to be born, the Messiah, and most had defined what that was “supposed to look like.” But it didn’t. Only those who had been blessed to have heard a full teaching of the scripture would have known the clues about what the first Advent might be like, but even then, all the details were not filled in.
Did the pandemic and all of its repercussions catch God off-guard? Of course not.
What if God wants to do something new, show us something new this Advent season? Could we miss it if we keep longing for what we can’t have this year? Because we can’t see what He has in store, could we be more like those in scripture who were just getting by without hope?
These questions began tumbling in my thoughts after we watched and heard Mandisa sing the new song she authored for The Chosen Christmas Special – “Get Used to Different.” Many of you have likely seen it and if not, You Tube can give you that experience or you can experience it again.
After all, we expected life would be more “normal” than it turned out to be and most all of us are longing for that “normal” again versus “the new normal” some say we need to accept. We want to be able to be with our friends, go to a movie, eat at our favorite restaurant, enjoy a vacation without limitations, enjoy a trip to the local shops with a stop at our favorite coffee shop, and more. We would like to have the life we used to have and could not have imagined would change as much as it has. Mandisa seems to have had some of those same thoughts and feelings as you listen to or read her lyrics to “Get Used to Different” as she considered how Mary might have reflected on the upending of her life when the angel told her she would carry the Son of God within her when the Holy Spirit hovered over her.
The song begins with these words:
“This year doesn’t look at all the way I thought it would
This year I’ve been looking hard to find a little good
I see the world on fire
Find it hard to breathe
It’s like a cloak of fear
About to smother me”Authored by Mandisa
How poignantly her lyrics remind us of some of the thoughts we have or may have had during these months. Many of us never knew how much we live in the illusion that life will largely go on much as it has when a new year rolls around, but a more sobered look would inform us that it is a dream only. If we could once again love studying history and learn from it, we could adjust our illusions into more reality.
Few of those who went to sleep on December 6, 1941, on the idyllic islands of Hawaii could have expected the following morning would change everything about that beautiful harbor of Pearl and alter the direction of WW II and history. It wasn’t what we expected back then even though the war was already going on in many and varied places.
Sir Alexander Fleming did not expect to see mold on the contaminated culture plate he had been working on in 1928 and how that would lead to the discovery of penicillin that would alter medical help for untold numbers of people around the world up to the present day.
It can be too easy to look at the unexpected things on an historical timeline and see only the tragedies, but looking more carefully we can discover more things than the discovery of penicillin happened because of something different than we expected. Even though we may say we like surprises we actually tend to like things to be within a range of predictable or what we would call “normal.”
This year we have a chance to be reminded that God often does a new thing in a new way and if we get lost looking in the rear-view mirror, we may miss it. Another portion of Mandisa’s lyrics of “Get Used to Different” gives a glimpse of how the Lord might respond to Mary or to us in the lines I quoted earlier:
“Don’t You see that I’m doing something new
You can trust that I’m working for your good
I’m not doing what you’ve seen before
My favor is on you for so much more
Do you perceive it
Get used to different”Authored by Mandisa
What might happen if our approach was less of a resigned waiting and more of an expectant hope based on a good God who was never thrown off by the pandemic of 2020?
“The bottom line is that we will all walk through seasons that look more like dark than light. The depth of this season does not matter as much as breathing deep to soak in the strength of God.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative