Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David… to guide our feet into the path of peace. – Luke 1:68-69, 79
When I was a boy there was a pond on our ranch that would freeze up every winter. In those ancient days my brother and I would wait expectantly for the pond to get solid and then test its fitness for skating, which we did the best way we could think of—by venturing out, step by step. Sometimes as we neared the center of the pond we would hear the tell-tale “snap” of cracking ice beneath us. Then, the trick was to get across to the other shore, careful to step only in those spots that we hoped were strong enough to support our combined little-boy weight. This wasn’t easy. We had to advance lightly and gingerly across an icy surface that betrayed few clues as to its step-worthiness. As we inched our way towards solid ground, we had a very clear idea of where we wanted to be, but it was equally clear that we were not there yet. We were between shores, in a fragile place. Sometimes we’d hold each other’s hand.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke prophetically of how God was ushering in a new age and a new world. He knew, as did Jesus’ mother Mary, that God was fulfilling His promise of salvation and peace that He had made to the people of Israel and which would somehow be extended to all mankind. Yet, for the time being, the way forward would be like walking on thin ice. They would have to make their way slowly, gingerly—in hope.
Throughout the year, but especially at Christmas, we hold in tension the promise of the complete and our everyday experience of the incomplete. We look around at the state of the world or the state of our own lives and feel as though we’ve ventured out onto the ice with skates around our neck only to discover that an elephant is following us on that very same pond. It seems to not bode well. Yet, as Christians, we place our faith in a deeper truth, a truth that lies beneath the surface, a truth that is timeless and ultimately beyond our understanding. God has come. God is here. His Word is true. He has determined the outcome of this expedition called life on earth and His people will be saved.
During this Advent and Christmas season we have it within our power to slow down and drink in the experience of treading between these two realities. On the one hand will be the clamor and chaos of the season that accelerates to a fever pitch as concerns about shopping, wrapping and pleasing push us towards exhaustion. On the other, we will have the miracle of God stepping into our world to dwell with us, to give himself for us, and to unite us in faith.
Christmas reminds us that even though the world sometimes shakes with foreboding and fear, the faithful tremble in the joy of knowing that Jesus was born among us and invites us to live in the light and security of His present kingdom. Always and everywhere, Jesus is here, in power and glory, and we will make it to the other side regardless of what we hear, what we feel; in spite of the elephant that dogs us or that snapping of the ice beneath us. God’s promise is His people will be delivered to love and serve Him today and into eternity.
And so we venture on, in the hope of one day skating in the beauty of His presence. And sometimes, we hold hands.