Author Archives: Jackson Lashier

Make a Path for God’s Comfort to Arrive by Jackson Lashier

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.’ You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” Isaiah 40:1-10

Comfort. It is such a simple word. Yet, when spoken in certain contexts, it becomes profound. The year 2020 has been one such context. Whether it has been the violence and racial injustice in American towns and streets, the divisions over the national election, or the murder hornets, there hasn’t been much comfort this year. This is to say nothing of the disruptive pandemic we are in. Some people have lost their jobs, others their businesses, still others, their lives. Some readers probably have had Covid, the experience of which, I am told, makes comfort a distance memory. Others have had to care for a loved one with Covid or watched a loved one die from it. During such tragedies, we normally find comfort in the presence of friends and family, but Covid has robbed us even of this. After the year we have had, what would we give to hear that simple word spoken to us: comfort.

The uncertainty and sense of hopelessness of the current moment approaches the context in which these words from the prophet Isaiah were first spoken. The people of Israel, to whom he addressed his message, were in exile in Babylon. They had been forcibly removed from their native land years before. Their homes and crops had been destroyed, their temple burned to the ground, and their king killed along with the rest of the royal line descended from David. Having been rescued from slavery by their God over 1,000 years before, they found themselves back as slaves in a foreign land. “By the rivers of Babylon,” laments the Psalmist, “we sat and wept when we remembered Zion . . . How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1, 4). The lament of the people of Israel must have had an additional layer of bitterness; they knew their own unfaithfulness caused their exile. The writer of Lamentations writes, “After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place…The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins” (Lamentations 1:3, 5). The people of Israel were experiencing the covenant curses for their centuries of unfaithfulness and idolatry: namely, the loss of God’s presence, for which humans were created. Exile. Death.

And then, spoken in the midst of their darkest days, comes that profound word, comfort. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord through the prophet. Yes, even in exile, even in their unfaithfulness, they were still his people. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” he continues, “and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” If we could put this message more simply, it would be, “It’s over!” Or maybe even, “It is finished.”

What amazing words of hope and comfort! Those of us living through 2020 may understand a bit the unspeakable joy these words would have brought the exiles. How many internet memes and discussions are devoted to what we all will do, when this pandemic is over? How wonderful will it be, to be among friends and family again without fear, without masks? How lovely will a simple hug or handshake seem then? To eat at a restaurant, to go to a movie, to go back to work. We long after ten months of a pandemic simply to be able to leave our homes; the Israelites were in exile for 70 years; more than anything, they wanted to just go home.

But the completely unexpected truth about this prophecy is its proclamation that the end of exile would not consist in the Jews going back to their homeland, back to the place where they assumed God was. Rather, exile ends by God coming to them. The prophet says, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” The highway was not for them to leave; the highway was for God to come.

The Jews didn’t grasp these words when they were first spoken. And so sometime later when they were released from Babylon and a remnant returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, they thought that their exile was over. It wasn’t. Roman soldiers marched in the streets, David’s throne was still empty, and no one saw the glory of God. Most significantly, though they had returned, comfort remained far from them. Their disappointment must have been like ours will inevitably be, when 2020 turns to 2021, and we realize the pandemic has not ended. A random year change or a lighted ball dropping from a building or a presidential election can’t fix anything. The only thing that can fix a broken and hurting world, an exiled and a quarantined people, is God showing up in our midst. And for that, they would have to wait.

Like the exiles, we are in a period of waiting right now, the season of Advent. In the cultural mind with all its cherished traditions, Advent always gets mixed up with Christmas. But the celebration and feasting that is Christmas doesn’t actually start until December 25th. The season of Advent is less about celebration and more about exile, and the Church’s song in this season is less the joyous herald angels singing and more the lamenting cry, “Oh come, oh come Immanuel!” The words of this cherished Advent hymn are not far from the song of the exiles, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Thus, Advent focuses us not only on Christ’s first coming 2,000 years ago but also on the hope of his second coming. We are reminded in this season that though Christ has already come, all is not well. Our world is still broken and hurting and we still long for Christ’s full presence. And so we wait.

Thanks be to God that unlike the exiles, we are waiting in this season with the confidence of the children of God, and the comfort of those who know that although not all is well, exile has indeed ended. It didn’t end because the Jews went back to Canaan or because they rebuilt the Temple. Its end is not found in the ceasing of pain or death or in the absence of rulers opposed to the purposes of God. These things are still very much a reality, as 2020 has made all too apparent. Rather, as Isaiah prophesied, exile ended when God came to us, in the very midst of our darkness, in Jesus Christ, the light of the world. It is for this reason that all the Gospels launch readers into John and Jesus’ ministries with the quotation from Isaiah 40 about the God who comes on a highway in the wilderness. About the God who speaks comfort. We know, then, that God is with us in the waiting.

No matter how dark these days are, take comfort in the Gospel’s promise that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Featured image courtesy Alexandre Dinaut on Unsplash.

Seeing God’s Glory at a Feast by Jackson Lashier

According to John’s Gospel, the first miracle Jesus performs in his public ministry is to turn water into wine at a wedding. John’s Gospel calls the miracles “signs” because through them we see the glory of God, a theme John introduces in the first chapter (John 1:14, 18) and carries through to the end (John 20:29). This sign meant seeing God’s glory at a feast – a wedding banquet. We have to admit, however, that this seems like a strange way for Jesus to start his ministry – and not only because we are currently in Lent, a season of fasting. This miracle seems to lack the drama and compassion of his other acts with which we are so familiar; no suffering person is healed, no demon exorcised, no tables overturned, no water walked on. Indeed, it seems the only result of this miracle is that a bunch of partiers get to keep drinking, not exactly something that immediately suggests God’s glory. John writes,

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’ What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:1-11)

When we read this account in the context of the entire story of scripture, which John has urged his readers to do by starting his Gospel “in the beginning” at the creation of the world (John 1:1), we begin to see the significance of the sign. Of all the metaphors used to describe Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament, none is more significant than the wedding metaphor. This metaphor starts in the Old Testament when God calls Israel’s ancestor Abraham into a covenant—this is marriage imagery. The scriptures continue to describe God’s love of his people as a jealous love like that of a spouse. And in the ideal picture, the people say of their God, in the words of the Song of Songs, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16). The nuptial metaphor is also used to explain sin; when the nation of Israel strays from the law it is described as unfaithful. When the people of Israel worship other gods they are said to be committing adultery.

From this perspective, Israel’s exile from God’s presence near the end of their story can be understood as a divorce, the sundering of that covenantal relationship, the ending of the happy marriage feast – instead of seeing God’s glory at a feast, everything has gone wrong. Isaiah draws on this image when he prophesies,

“The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth. . .the new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The joyful timbrels are stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song.” (Isaiah 24:5-9)

Likewise, the prophesied restoration or return from exile often takes the image of a new wedding and new feasting. So the prophet Jeremiah says:

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.’” (Jeremiah 31:31-32)

This new covenant will be marked, Isaiah prophesies, with “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (Isaiah 25:6)

The setting of Jesus’s first miracle as a wedding is not, therefore, insignificant to its meaning. It brings to the reader’s mind this familiar ancient metaphor. And what springs Jesus to action in this story is specifically the occasion of the wine running out, the wedding feast ending prematurely. If we understand that image as a reference to exile, then Jesus’ miracle of bringing new wine for the new feast signals in his ministry, beginning in this moment, the inauguration of the new wedding covenant that occurs through him. That this marital union is new and, in the words of Jeremiah, not like the old one, is suggested by the words of the host to the groom: “you have saved the best till now.”

But how is this union new? How is it not like the old one? Put another way, why will this new marriage not fail as the old one had? Again, the imagery in this story provides insight. Jesus made new wine not out of just any water, but specifically out of the water in the stone jars that Jews used to purify themselves in preparation for, among other things, offering the sacrifice in the Temple. The water in these jars is symbolic of the old Jewish religion focused on the cult of animal sacrifice, a religion predicated to some degree on our actions and our sacrifices, which could never fully deliver us from our sin. In turning this purifying water into new wine, Jesus demonstrates that the marriage between God and his people in Christ puts an end to the old way of doing things. No longer will our relationship with God be based on the things we do or the sacrifices we make. But now, the marriage relationship between God and his people in Christ is based not on our actions but on what Christ, who is God himself, has done.

The image of the new wine points forward to a second time that wine will be the center of the Gospel story: that moment on the night before his crucifixion, that Jesus will take a cup of wine and say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20) It is through the sacrifice of Jesus, then, that the new marriage with God will be inaugurated.

But the story of the first miracle also reminds us that the death of Christ, necessary for our salvation, is not the last word, but rather is ultimately defeated in resurrection. The image of the wine at last points to the wedding feast, the celebration that is eternal life in the presence of the risen bridegroom. It is the feast of reconciliation which Jesus taught about in various parables. It is the feast the Father throws when his prodigal son returns home, the feasting the angels experience in heaven when a lost sinner is found, the feast of the banquet where the host throws the doors open and invites everyone in, with the host himself providing the appropriate garments. Perhaps a feast can reveal God’s glory after all.

Jesus, like the prophets of old, refers to this feast of restoration at the Last Supper when he says, “I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29) When we celebrate communion, then, we are not only remembering what Christ did for us on the cross in the past, we are eating and drinking in anticipation of the great heavenly feast that awaits us. And God’s glory will be manifest at the heavenly banquet in our midst, just as it was seen in the wedding in Cana where Jesus’s ministry of reconciliation began.

Jackson Lashier ~ The Story of Two Mountains: A Transfiguration Meditation

The redemptive story of scripture can be told in many and various ways. I like to tell it through the story of two mountains. Not the characters one normally pictures when thinking about the story of scripture, I admit. Yet, like the Appalachians in the East and the Rockies in the West of America, these two mountains tower over the biblical narrative and in many ways define its landscape.

The first one is well known: Mt. Sinai. Located in the vast rocky wilderness of the peninsula separating Egypt from Canaan, this mountain first appears in the early chapters of Exodus. It’s not a pretty mountain. In fact, the other name it goes by in scripture, Mt. Horeb, means ‘wasteland,’ which perfectly reflects the state of God’s story at this point. For the children of Israel have been toiling in slavery for 400 years, and Moses has fled for his life from Pharaoh’s court and found himself in the wasteland near Mt. Sinai. One day, while Moses is on the mountain, God appears to him and calls him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses, though frightened and unequal to the task, returns to Egypt, confronts the Pharaoh, and leads the people out of slavery. As God commanded him, Moses brings them back to this mountain where God calls him up to give the law that would define Israel’s way of life for the next 1,000 years.

While Moses is speaking with God on Mt. Sinai, he gathers the courage to ask a question. “Show me your glory,” he says. God responds:

I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The LORD”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But . . . you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live . . . See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen (Exodus 33:19-23).

This was a bold question. To see God’s glory, after all, was to see God, and no one had seen God since Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden. Their sin, which passed to all humanity, had now made this vision impossible for the holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. For if they saw him, God told Moses, they would die. So God does a most gracious thing here. He allows his glory to pass by Moses so that the prophet sees the “back” of his glory, back being a sanitized translation of the Hebrew word meaning “backside.” This is the most of God that the greatest prophet of Israel was ever able to see.

The second mountain in our story is not so well known: Mt. Tabor. Located in lower Galillee, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, this mountain is smaller than Mt. Sinai but much prettier, with rows of green trees covering its heights. And unlike Mt. Sinai, which dominates the first part of scripture, this mountain only appears once, in a relatively short story from the Gospels. At this point in his ministry, Jesus has been preaching throughout Galilee for several years. In fact, he has recently revealed to his disciples for the first time that he had to go to Jerusalem to be handed over to the authorities and crucified, a sure sign that he sensed his earthly ministry was coming to an end. Shortly after this troubling revelation, he takes his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, to this second mountain. The Gospel writer continues:

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone (Matthew 17:2-8).

In this mysterious moment, known to history as “the Transfiguration,” Jesus reveals to the disciples his true nature. And to their shock, his true nature is the glory of God shining from his face. Present with the disciples, and beholding the same incredible sight, is Moses, the prophet who had asked on Mt. Sinai to see God’s glory. Only now, on Mt. Tabor, does he get what he hoped for. Only in Jesus does he see God face to face.

In the story of the two mountains, bound together in the figure of Moses, we hear the redemptive story of God, that the God who revealed himself incompletely in the law, which is to say he showed us his backside, reveals himself fully in Christ. That the God whose holiness did not allow him to be in the presence of sinful humanity without causing their deaths is now able, through Christ and his sacrifice, to dwell fully with humanity. And that the God of the cosmos speaks with us face to face, as he always intended. As I noted earlier, this story can be told in many and various ways. The apostle John puts it this way: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, that makes him known” (John 1:18). And the apostle Paul says: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

If you notice from the story of Mt. Tabor, Peter wanted to stay on the mountain. But Jesus, no longer transfigured, leads them down the mountain and then, not long after, on to Jerusalem. You see, there is one more mountain in this story. It’s called Golgotha. It’s the smallest of the three and the ugliest. It takes its name from the odd formation in its rocky surface, that of a skull. From this third mountain, Jesus will show God’s glory in a different way. He will show it through a cross.

Jesus’ walk down the mountain, then, is a movement from his ministry to his passion, which the Church marks in the movement from Epiphany to Lent, a 40-day period of intentional reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice.

Honestly, it’s not a joyful time in the life of the Church. Methodists, like many traditions, begin the journey by placing ashes on our heads and remembering that we are made from dust and returning to dust. Other traditions refuse to say the word “Hallelujah” during this season. Still other traditions fast regularly to identify with Jesus’ sacrifice. My guess is that all of us, like Peter, would rather stay on Mt. Tabor, basking in God’s radiant glory forever. But as we saw from Moses’ experience on Mt. Sinai, this would be impossible if it were not for the sacrifice on Golgotha. Only by this sacrifice can the glimpse of Mt. Tabor become an everlasting reality for those who follow Jesus and have the Spirit.

So we say on Transfiguration Sunday, hallelujah for the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus. And we will not say it again until Easter Sunday when death is defeated in resurrection and the veil of God’s glory is forever torn.

Let’s enter these next 40 days with hope that death never has the last word. Let’s remember that the hope we have in Jesus is a face to face relationship with God and that no sin we have done, no hurt we have caused, no brokenness we have experienced, and no shame we have felt can ever again hide that glory. Let us walk with confidence in this wasteland knowing that we shall soon see the glory of God.

Jackson Lashier ~ Advent, Esther, & the Absence of God

These texts for a Sunday of Advent, taken from the Narrative Lectionary, seem like odd choices for the season of Advent (Esther 4:1-17, Matthew 5:13-16). They contain no prophecies about the coming king that we have come to expect during this time of waiting. Rather, the book of Esther is a narrative set in the period of the Jewish exile, where God’s chosen people are subjects of a foreign king. This king, Ahasuerus of Persia, is described in the first chapter as a typical Ancient Near Eastern king, displaying the “great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty” (1:4). He views his wife, Vashti, as part of this great wealth, a thing for him to enjoy. So when she refuses to obey his misogynist commands to be paraded before his friends, he dismisses her, and orders all the virgins of the land to come before him so he could handpick her replacement, a sort of ancient version of The Bachelor.

One of these virgins is a Jewish exile named Esther, a young woman who was raised by her cousin Mordecai. The text says that “the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he made her queen” (2:17). Her Jewish identity, however, is unknown to the king for certainly he would not have knowingly made a Jew his queen. After all, the Persians looked down on the Jews; they felt that they were dirty and no better than slaves. Indeed, as the narrative continues, we learn that one of the king’s advisors, Haman, wants to kill all the Jews in the land simply because Mordecai had refused to bow down to him. King Ahasuerus agreed to this plan.

This leads to today’s text, where Mordecai informs Esther of Haman’s plot and begs her to do something about it:

Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law– all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter,but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (4:10-14).         

At first, Esther is hesitant to act. Who wouldn’t be? This is clearly a volatile king. He dismissed his former queen because she disobeyed him. He agreed to mass genocide because his servant Haman was offended with one Jew. And apparently, he kills anyone who comes to him without being summoned. This is a man you treaded lightly around, that is, if you wanted to save your life. But Mordecai’s words ring in her head: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” As the story continues, Esther somehow gets the courage to act, and goes before the king, winning his favor. At a banquets he prepares for him and Haman, Ahasuerus is so pleased with Esther that he grants her any request she wants. She asks that her people be spared and when the king learns she is Jewish and that Haman is the one plotting to kill them, he hangs him on the gallows that had been prepared for Jews. Esther’s faithful act saves her people, an act still celebrated every year by Jews at the festival of Purim.

 As good as the story of Esther is, however, it presents us with a problem: God is absent. Unlike other Old Testament stories, where we read of God appearing to Abraham or working behind the scenes to foil the plans of the Pharaoh, the story of Esther never mentions God. There is no account of God’s efforts to stop Haman’s plans of genocide. There is no description of God appearing to Esther to strengthen her for her ordeal. Rather, the characters in Esther appear to be acting on their own. God, it seems, is absent.

And here, then, lies the key to understanding Esther as an Advent story. For God’s absence is a reality that faced those in exile, and it is a reality that faces us today. For although Christ came and set all things right through his life, death, and resurrection, we find ourselves waiting again for his return with the fullness of the kingdom.

And if we are honest, this waiting period is not all candles and lights. More often it means we still experience the harsh realities of this life: injustice, struggles with sin, the gut wrenching experience of death. When we pray, we often wonder whether God hears. When we try to follow God’s will, we often feel left in the dark as to what God’s will is. We’re like Mordecai, whose famous line, “perhaps you have come to royal dignity for such a time as this” is qualified by the somewhat lesser known question,“Who knows?”

Though our everyday experience is probably not too dissimilar from these Jewish exiles, however, there is an important difference to the quality of our waiting, namely, the victory has already been won, the contest is no longer in doubt. Our Gospel tells us that Jesus defeated sin and evil with his life and death on the cross, and that in his resurrection, Jesus even defeated death. This means, then, that we wait not as those who do not know what is going to happen. We wait with the confidence of the children of God. And the great sign of this hope, that which sustains us in the meantime, is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

This leads us to our second text of the day, Matthew 5:13-16, where Jesus tells the people, “You are the light of the world.” He is talking about the Church, the community of people that would be set up in the meantime, in the waiting period between the advents of Jesus. “The light of the world” is a startling title for this group of disciples. In his ministry, Jesus uses that phrase of only one other person, himself (John 8:12). This means that the presence of God, during this period of waiting, exists in the Church.

Practically speaking, this means that we need to be the presence of God for one another. This works every time an injustice occurs and the Church rises to make it right. And it happens every time a person experiences tragedy or death and is surrounded by the community of faith. So that in the times where God might seem most absent, he becomes present through his people, the Body of Christ.

Ultimately, then, the knowledge we have of God’s victory helps us to think differently about those times where we thought God was absent. In the midst of suffering, it can certainly feel God is absent. But when we look back at those times from a later point in life, we often see where God actually was present, where he was moving, even though we did not feel him.

And so it is with the story of Esther. God is not mentioned in the story, but when we read it from the standpoint of the cross and resurrection, we see the hand of God everywhere; how else would a Jewish exile come to be queen? Mordecai didn’t feel it at the time; the best he could say was, “who knows?” But from our stand point, we know. We know that God was never absent, even in exile. As the Psalmist writes, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).

So in our time of waiting this Advent Season, let us remember with the confidence of the children of God, that the victory has already been won, that we do not hope for something of which we are not sure will happen. Rather, let us wait expectantly on our Lord and in the meantime, let us shine his light to one another and to the world, so that God’s abiding presence will always be known. Amen.

Featured image courtesy Laura Nyhuis via Unsplash.