Station 1—The Promise

Today’s journey doesn’t begin with the footsteps you’ll take from this first station. Today’s journey begins way back, back before you learned to read, back before you learned to walk, back before your parents were born, back before our country was founded, even back before the beginning of this millennium and the two before it. Today’s journey starts way back at the beginning—the beginning of creation. The Bible teaches us that God created everything. The Bible doesn’t explicate the how of creation but it does proclaim the instigator behind its formation—God. In fact, the Bible starts by saying, “In the beginning, God created…” That’s where our journey to the manger starts. It starts with God and God’s creative planning.

Not long after Adam and Eve were created, both fell short and made a grave mistake. They ate the fruit of a tree that God had told them not to. As a result, Adam, Eve and all their descendants (us included) have continued to fall short and not live up to the standard of perfection. In reality, we can’t be perfect and some of us have completely given up on trying to be. Yet, God in God’s great love has pursued us ever since that first rupture in the relationship between God and humankind. The Old Testament traces the history of God’s relationship with Israel. You may well know some of the key stories: the call and promise to Abraham, the renaming of Jacob to Israel, the rise of Moses to set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt, David killing Goliath and the exile to Babylon. We remember great triumphs and crushing defeats and we also relive superb spiritual highs and depressing spiritual emptiness throughout the biblical narrative.

Yet, there is nothing that emerges from the Old Testament text that has cured the people from their reflexes to fall short. Humanity, despite its human gains, still fails to measure up. Yet, from the quiet voices oft seen in the recessed rooms of prophets, a tone of hope resounds. These voices proclaim that God will be up to something in the days to come. As the community of Israel looks around and feels bewildered and tempest-tossed as they experience exile and their world turned on its head and as they adapt to new patterns of life without the security of what has always been, the quiet voices’ call for hope in God gains strength. New hope is planted in the hearts of God’s people. Israel begins to wait expectantly and eagerly for God to show back up and save them from their oppressors.

One of the most important hopes was grounded in the Prophet Micah’s words, “A ruler of Israel shall come from [Bethlehem], one whose origin is from ancient days.”

So, imagine a world where everything has been turned on its head, where the life you once knew has been ripped apart, where fear and anxiety wreak havoc in the heart, and, then, you’ll be starting your journey where the Israelites did. At a place of utter frustration and in a place of utter darkness. Where the teachings of hope were on the lips but they were not lived and nestled in the hearts. That, friend, is where the Israelites were. That’s where we begin our journey to the manger.

Guiding questions:

  1. What causes you to have the most anxiety and fear today?
  2. What circumstances caused you to lose hope?
  3. When was the last time you felt hopeful?
To help prepare your heart, please enjoy “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” performed by Betty Ecklund on Violin & Ebony Cleveland on synth.