Now you might assume my reason for telling you this story is so I can say that in the real Christmas story, Jesus never fails to show up for us. And of course that is the truth we proclaim at Christmas. But I also want to say that, occasionally, there are times when we feel very similar to the way these parents and children felt at the shopping center. Sometimes, it feels like God has overslept or lost his way, or got distracted from our waiting need for his presence. There will be times in life when our faith in God’s faithfulness will not have strong or immediate circumstantial support. In extreme moments, we may even feel abandoned.
This is exactly why we need Advent. If we always felt the presence of God in our lives, or always felt strong in trusting his love, or never wavered in our belief in his goodness and blessing, then seasons like Advent would be unnecessary. But that isn’t the real world we live in, is it? Even Jesus in his suffering prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, in the worst moment of Jesus’ earthly life, God felt far away from him, and he felt forgotten.
Advent is the way we gather together as a faith community to remember and proclaim in our worship the faithfulness of God, especially for those who are struggling to remember it for themselves. It may not be your struggle this year, but it is for someone. During those times, we must see him and trust him for each other. We stand with one another through these times of difficulty because we need the strength and support of each other’s confidence and hope. And then someday, we will have the opportunity to do that for someone else. This is how the community of faith works. We are fortunate and grateful to have that kind of community developing among us at University Presbyterian Church.