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See It Together

By December 8, 2016 9 Comments

by Kate Kooyman

“…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)

Every advent is a journey through darkness into light — but this advent feels especially dark, am I right?

I preached last Sunday on this passage from Isaiah 40, which begins, “Comfort, O Comfort my people,” and I admitted that I wasn’t up for the task of preaching comfort. I wasn’t even really feeling ready to proclaim with confidence that the light is coming. I’m not feeling it. I’m scared, and sad, and not ready to talk about hope.

I’m a straight white American Christian who grew up in the 1980s, so I really have no muscle memory for how to cope with darkness. I was born into comfort, reading about war in far-off places, thanking God for my daily bread and my fully stocked extra freezer, paying attention to politics out of interest and not because I found myself tangibly impacted by the party in power.

It seems clear that in order to find my way around this darkness, I will need to lean on a memory that is not my own.

I need a borrowed memory if I’m to claim the hope that Joshua DuBois posted after the election: “Remember our history. We have been courageous before, we have survived worse, and we have tremendous capacity to provoke change. We are a Fannie Lou Hamer people, a Martin Luther King people, an Abraham Joshua Heschel people, a Rosa Parks people, an Eleanor Roosevelt people, a Barack Obama people. It is time for strong people to stand up and walk in unreasonable, audacious hope.” I desperately want that hope, so I need to borrow those stories.

I need a borrowed memory if I’m to claim “Comfort, O Comfort my people,” along with Isaiah. Israel had been defeated and enslaved and deported. Darkness was familiar territory for them. And so was the lived-in truth that God showed up, every time. I want that comfort, so I need to borrow those stories.

Isaiah proclaims that when God’s glory comes to us in the wilderness, all people shall see it together. And this is really good news for me. Because I miss it. I fall into these media-fueled fear spirals, overwhelmed by the darkness that’s predicted to come next. Or I numb myself with salt and vinegar chips and Netflix, checked out completely from the real stuff of the world. I fail to recognize it because my eyes can’t adjust. Maybe “all people shall see it together” means that someone will be gracious enough to nudge me and say, “Hey check that out. Over there. A light shines in the darkness.”

It’s already happening. Fifteen of my facebook friends shared the veterans’ apology to the tribes at Standing Rock. A light shines in the darkness.

I was at a meeting today and someone pointed to a house down the street where he’d given refuge to Salvadorans during the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. A light shines in the darkness.

Time printed the testimony of my friend, who is undocumented and facing an unknown future, who is so brave, and so full of faith and hope. A light shines in the darkness.

I need a borrowed memory, a shared story, eyes that are not my own, if I’m going to be ready during this Advent to proclaim the light that is coming to dwell among us. Comfort, O comfort, is right now coming in the assurance that there are folks who are much more faithful and watchful than me, and that they see hope and light all around, and they love me enough to give me a nudge.

All people shall see it together.

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • beatricevanwinkle says:

    Thank you. I needed to start my day with this.

  • castaway5555 says:

    Appreciate your sense of disconnection … heck, I’m 72, and have never felt quite so disconnected as now. I’m still struggling with the humiliation, I think, of misjudging the tenor of the times, the shape of America. I was wrong, profoundly wrong. Where we go from here, I haven’t a clue, though it looks dire to me. DT’s track record and now those he’s piling up around him do not bode well for our nation. So, as so thoughtfully put it, we search in other times and places for hope … the means whereby we keep our heads and remain on point. Keep up the good work.

  • Ginny Kuilema says:

    God bless you, Kate. You have a way of zeroing in on what we need to remember.

  • Jan says:

    So many of us feel this disconnectedness; I am one. I never knew this country was so filled with people who are not like me. I encourage everyone to read the story from Time in the link above. It is just one example of how a person can do everything right, and then end up undocumented because of a paperwork error on the part of another. How many more “undocumented” are there –who have every right to live in this country ?!

  • Susan Van Winkle says:

    Thanks Kate, I needed that nudge to go back to our “Evangelical” church and keep trying to be that kind of people.

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    Thanks for the term “borrowed memory.” Preachers who have not suffered much themselves have no choice but to “lean on a memory that is not their own” to authentically enter into a brokenness they themselves have not experienced. Thanks for the term (and for all the other insights in your post).

    There are different variants of having “no muscle memory to cope with darkness” (another great phrase for which I thank you). I visited an aging couple last week because she is dying. Her husband said, “Oh, Duane, one of the reasons this is so hard is because we have had such a blessed and pain-free life that we hardly know how to cope. Up until now, our greatest crisis was realizing it’s Saturday night and we’re out of milk.”

  • Jennifer L. Holberg says:

    Profound and insightful. Thanks!

  • Walt Ackerman says:

    A special thank you to you as so many are caught in this bind as we watch bad things pile up around us. Prayer and faith that God is in charge and as our pastor finished a sermon on fear about the future he said, ” Our comfort is that GOD wins. What a powerful statement no matter the future God wins.

    Walt Ackerman

  • aboksu says:

    Sing it as: Isaiah 40:1-11 “Speak Tenderly To Jerusalem” David Alexander, 2008
    TUNE: Einer Ist Konig 9 10 9 10 10 10 (Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord )
    found here

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