Hold On to the Light * Advent Devotional

I first met Bethany Beams in college. I was friends with her then-boyfriend (now-husband). He was studying to be a physicist and was brilliant, sarcastic, thoughtful, and witty. As soon as I met Bethany I thought, “She is brilliant, sarcastic, thoughtful, and witty TOO! These two are PERFECT for each other.” 

I don’t live close enough to Bethany to have regular playdates with her and her son, but if I did you better believe we’d hang out ALL. THE. TIME.

She’s a deep person, and this isn’t your typical devotional. That makes it all the better. Enjoy!

Isaiah 65:20a (ESV)

No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days…

My friend Jesse is a dancer. We met in seventh grade and I’ve seen him dance everywhere since. Even then, in middle school – that most unfortunate of times for nearly everyone – Jesse danced through the halls, on the sidewalk, down the narrow school bus aisles…

He couldn’t help it then and he can’t now. Dancing is just part of his soul. He’s both graceful and full of grace: a rare gift.

I got together with Jesse at a local coffee shop last week. He danced in with a big grin on his face and we caught up on each other’s lives.

As usual, though, he listened more than he talked, interjecting witty comments here and there along with appropriate eye rolls and laughter. We talked about the state of our nation, how I’m doing with fighting my anxiety, stories about my kid, and the new Justin Timberlake/Anna Kendrick cover of True Colors. (It’s really great.) From deep to shallow, we covered it all.

And then I woke up.

You see, Jesse passed away ten years ago as a result of complications from pneumonia. He was 24 years old. Jesse possessed so much life that it’s hard to imagine the world turning without him for any time at all, let alone for an entire decade.

It is difficult for me to speak of him using the past tense, especially because we meet often in my dreams.

He isn’t the only one, either. There’s my student Shamar, killed at 16 by his former gang. My friend’s son Atticus, who died of cancer before he turned 2. My friend Belise’s family, killed during the Rwandan genocide. My friend’s husband, Rob, who died of cancer at 34, leaving behind his wife and three-year-old son. My great-grandfather C.L., killed in action in World War II at 28. My student Brittanee, murdered on spring break at 17. My friend’s mom, Shelly, from suicide at 39 as a result of depression. My friend Andrea, from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, at 25.

On and on and on. And these are just a few of my loved ones and their loved ones. This doesn’t come close to the heart-wrenching horror from Syria, and New Orleans, and Iraq, and Chicago, and Haiti, and Detroit, and…

It doesn’t end.

Not yet.

And yet.

Friends, death will end and it already has. Christ has conquered death. He has taken its sting upon himself and wrapped his arms around us in our grief. And all this death will give way to life upon life upon life.

Even so, here we remain, weeping tears of anguish and expectation. I wait to see Jesse dance again, and to hear Atticus roar again, and to meet my great-grandfather, and to tell Andrea that I named my son after her. You wait to see your friends, your parents, your siblings, your babies, your heroes. And Christ is waiting for us all to draw nearer to him. Together, we wait in the dark of sorrow, holding to for dear life to the light of hope.

Come, oh, come, Emmanuel: God with us.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

beams_bethany_headshotBethany Beams is a certified doula and fourth-generation redhead who can’t get enough of storytelling, which she pursues through website design, photography, and freelance editing. Her many loves include her husband and son, long naps, libraries, ice cream, singing, chicory flowers, the color turquoise, anything pumpkin-flavored, snow leopards, Bagel Bites, 75° weather, Rome, cornfields, and lists.

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