Rev. Dr. Dane Neufeld

November 19, 2020  

A Message from Dane  

We do not yet know what Christmas will look like around St. James, but we do know that the current restrictions will take us well into Advent, and quite possibly beyond, given the state of the pandemic. Though the Church traditions of Advent provide comforting and warm anticipations of Christmas, this year our situation will give us some insight into Advent’s discomfort.  

While Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation, the expected coming of the Lord is hardly a gentle and harmless event. The lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent portend strange and unsettling events. In Mark 13, the sky will be darkened, the mountains will shake, the stars will fall from the heavens and the moon will grow dim. Isaiah despairs of his people: “There is no one who calls on your name, or attempt to take hold of you. For you have hidden your face from us.” (Is.64)  

But in the course of these desperate realizations, Isaiah cries out: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter.” We spend much of our energy trying to fashion our lives in a variety of ways. Whether in planning for desired outcomes, or steering events in our favor or trying to present a certain image to the world, we are constantly playing the potter. That is not always a bad thing but the Spirit often works most powerfully in us when we are ready to be the clay.  

Paul talks about the ministry of the Church as being held in jars of clay. Especially now we feel the fragility of our ministry but also, hopefully, the strength and power of God. It is strange to be midway through November without a fairly clear picture of the approaching Christmas season. Though this feels a bit stressful, it might put us in mind of the young Mary and Joseph as they journeyed toward Bethlehem, without any sense of where they would land, or how they would make it.  

Like them, we live by the grace of God, we are clay in his hands. As we prepare for Advent, may the Lord do with us as He wills.  

Dane