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A Flicker of Light

 In All Church of God, Columns

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By Sam Collins

Journeys can be unpredictable. A flat tire can turn a quick trip to the store to pick up a quart of low-fat soy milk into a time-consuming, energy-draining tribulation. Journeys have a way of surprising us with detours, suspension-snapping potholes, and even erratic fellow travelers who force us into lanes or onto side roads we never intended to enter.

A seemingly routine life journey can turn surreal and perilous in a nanosecond. When Mary and Joseph planned to be married, chances are they didn’t expect elements of their lives to make them seem like prime candidates for a Dr. Phil relationship intervention. First there was the bride-to-be’s “delicate condition”; then there was Mary’s explanation surrounding the pregnancy.

On top of that was Joseph’s apparent willingness to swallow a storyline seemingly less plausible than the most far-fetched elements of Wonder Woman and Batman comic books. It’s likely that tongues around Nazareth were wagging at such a fast and furious pace that air currents threatened to spawn cyclones all across the plains of Galilee.

Just how murky and menacing did all this seem to Mary and Joseph as they approached the birth of a child that, from their perspective, was unplanned? We have no way of knowing. All we know is what they chose to do.

They chose to journey on together. They decided to journey on with God. They elected to take one risky, faithful step at a time. They opted to keep moving through uncertain darkness toward that tiny flicker of light that might be the first glimpse of the little town of Bethlehem—and their initial peek at what it was going to be like for the incarnate God to join them in the thick of life’s demanding journey.

Mary and Joseph’s example says something valuable to us as we move into the Advent season. All of us are beset by our own challenges, uncertainties, and unanticipated complications. At some point, each of us knows disappointment, loss, shame, grief, and what it’s like to have life spin out of control. Despite life’s many blessings, the heartaches and challenges of the journey can make us want to pull off the road, bury our head in our hands, and sob tears enough to turn the Sahara Desert into the world’s largest water theme park.

When we are in the midst of dark times, we would do well to remember that beleaguered couple of long ago and attempt to do as they did: take one faithful step at a time; move toward that barely perceptible flicker of light; and remember that we live in the mysterious presence of a God who loved us enough to encase himself in the fragile, vulnerable flesh of a newborn child.


The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.

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