And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy. ( Luke 1, selected verses from Mary’s Song of Praise.)
We are living in the time between. The time between. Between the end of one presidential term and the beginning of another. Between the arrival of COVID19 vaccine and the beginning of its effect. Between the time when we gathered with family and friends without fear at one Christmas season and the anticipation of doing so again next year. Between the time when toilet paper and cleaning products were practically unobtainable and when they will be plentiful again.
So what does it mean to live in the time between? Between Advent and Christmas? Between the time when Mary sang her song of justice and mercy and the time that those lovely words are fulfilled? Between the coming of the Christ child to Bethlehem and his coming to be with us again. These days, theologically speaking, are the “already and not yet” times. He has come. He will come. So how do we live in these times? And perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to be the church in these times?
When I was on the conference Safe Sanctuaries committee, this story came to me through a friend.
On a cold, dreary December evening, several hundred people gathered at a large downtown church in Winston-Salem to celebrate the Christmas season. The late Bishop Ernest Fitzgerald, present that evening, had gone down a hallway to help a small boy who was pushing against massive oak doors trying to get outside. The boy was about two years old and as he pushed he was crying as if his heart would break.
The Bishop picked him up, thinking he belonged to someone at one of the Christmas parties, but as he opened the doors and looked outside he spotted an old-model car speeding away in the darkness. Gradually it dawned on him that the child he held in his arms had been abandoned.
Phone calls were made, and soon the church was filled with people wanting to help in any way they could. Within moments the local TV station interrupted their programs to see if anyone knew the identity of the little boy. The next morning, one of the city’s newspapers put the child’s picture on the front page. Under the picture there was an article describing the events of the evening before. The article began with this striking line: “Somebody trusted the church last night and the church came through!”
Bishop Fitzgerald later reflected on this event and wrote these words: “It will be a long, long time before I forget that newspaper headline. So much of the world’s future depends on the faithfulness of the People of God to the Great commission.” Yes, that night someone trusted the church and the church came through.
Maybe that is how we live as the church in the time between.
O come, Desire of nations bind all peoples in one heart and mind.
From dust thou brought us forth to life; deliver us from earthly strife.
Pastor Rachel Moser