2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. We have lost family members and friends to a terrible pandemic. Children have been forced to learn virtually. Businesses have closed. While some of us have not had to experience these things firsthand, we have read so many stories and prayed for those who have. It has become difficult to find hope, peace, joy, and love, which are all things we strive to remember each week of Advent as we light our candles and say our prayers. Instead, we may be asking ourselves where are these things. Where is the hope in so much division? Where is the peace when the threat of violence is at our backdoor? Where is the joy when we can’t visit loved ones? Where is the love?

I imagine that Mary and Joseph also asked themselves the same questions well before they were visited by the angel. Where was the hope when the days were full of uncertainty? Where was the peace as they lived under the threat of tyrant rulers? Where was the joy amidst the food and financial insecurity? Where was the love?

The love, friends, is in God. Just as God saw Mary and Joseph as so beloved that they would be asked to bear and raise God’s son, you are also so beloved. God’s messenger to Mary and Joseph was Gabriel. He came to visit Mary, to tell her of the good news, and because she saw in herself what God already knew, she said yes. Who is your messenger? Who is challenging you to not just find hope, peace, joy, and love, but to share it as well?

If you were to ask me that question, I would say children. Our children have had a lot of challenges thrown their way this past year, yet in spite of all of this, they still seem to be willing instruments of God’s hope, peace, joy, and love much better than we adults are. Maybe it’s because they have been with God much more recently than we have, or maybe it’s because they are simply gifted with untarnished faith. Whatever the reason may be, they are calling to us to know that these four gifts that are given during Advent, the first season of the Church year, are all of ours to keep throughout the year, even years as challenging as 2020, until the next season of Advent comes and begins all over again.

If you’re not 100% sure about this, I invite you to spend some time with us on Sunday at 10 a.m., when we will premiere the 2020 Good Sam’s Christmas Pageant, The Story That Never Ends. See for yourself as our children tell the story we all are familiar with, but long to hear every year. I promise you that through their storytelling, you will find God’s gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love.

-Barbie Russell, Director of Children’s & Family Ministries


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