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Jan Amelink reflects on journeying through a difficult year, yet finding unexpected meaning and hope through it, through the voices of close and faithful friends.

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Jan Amelink is a Theological Student and intern with Common Grace, working in our Justice for People Seeking Asylum team.

Today's reading is Luke 1:67-80

With the beauty of salvation’s story in view, Zechariah finally finds his voice again. He erupts with praise to God, because he sees God’s light breaking through. This good news will be announced by the son Elizabeth has birthed. They named him John, meaning God has been gracious.

Zechariah’s song and prophecy oozes with hope, remembrance and expectation. But what if this hope, this song of praise, this sight of what the Divine is doing is not there? What if God feels absent?

For me this was the case on a very personal level. This year my mood worsened. I felt very low for quite some time. I had to adjust my studies. Some days I could not get to work, other days I barely made it out of bed. There have been days I looked in the mirror and wondered what was left of me. I was emotionally mute. I was disappointed because nothing seemed to be breaking through. Love felt absent, and I was lost.

I didn’t see the hope this song presented. Maybe you see no sunrise breaking upon you right now, maybe you cannot sing the songs of thanks and praise anymore. That’s okay. Remember that Zechariah, the person singing in this passage could not either for the longest time. Literally.

Although I was frustrated, I read on, and was struck by the end of Zechariah’s song where he says that “God’s sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in darkness” (The Message)

I was reminded of a song by The Brilliance that started my Common Grace journey, which echoes the language of Zechariah:

The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Bringing life to the earth
As it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Won't you dry all your tears lay your burden down?
Won't you dry all your tears lay your burden down?

I found that the sun does rise, but not in a way I expected.

I had to cry the tears before I could dry them. I had to have the difficult conversations about where I was at. I had to doubt my doubts, before I could lay my burdens down. But the sunlight is slowly peeking through, through the friendships slowly built with trust and vulnerability. These friends make me forget my perfect offering, but made me treasure the cracks, for this is where the light creeps in. These friendships are like prophets, announcing good news. They are telling me these great stories of light, that perhaps it can be different, while sitting with me in the pain. They are the John’s that cause me to start humming again.

So, this advent, let us praise, because God is here with us in the dirt and dust of life, not high in some far away world. But the divine is found anywhere where we engage with each other in the works of love. Acknowledge what others are feeling, being okay with the brokenness present inside us all.

And when we have those conversations, we might find the mute starting to sing again, the writers writing hymns again, and all of us united in thanksgiving again, while contributing to this bold new kingdom, while we brave the wilderness together.

Daily Reading Luke 1:67-80

Zechariah’s Prophecy

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71     that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
    to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
    before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel

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Unexpected Beauty: An Advent series from Common Grace