Sometimes I have to remind myself that rain is just rain. I got here not long after the Great Rains which flooded Houston and made me rethink my plans to move several states away. There have been some serious rains since then, the kind where you have permission to stay home and read books and watch old movies. But sometimes, it's just rain.
So I was invited to the 80th birthday party of a member of my congregation yesterday. It was in an area of town I am not familiar with yet. But, I have GPS, right? No problem. I also noticed that it was supposed to rain. Actually, it was supposed to rain quite a lot. But, it was just rain.
So I went to the birthday party, where I was greeted very warmly by the family and introduced as the new pastor, and given appetizers. Several other members of the congregation were also there. It was quite a celebration, and quite a crowd, although a bit soggier than they had hoped. There was a tent in back yard, and we were out there when it was dripping, and then turned into a downpour, and just kept on raining.
We all crammed into the house for the main course and dessert, for a birthday toast and for more conversations. And it just kept on raining. But, it was just rain.
I may not have mentioned that people were parked all over in the yard. There was not enough room in the driveway.
At some point, I thought it might be good if I went home. I still had a couple of things to do to get ready for the Sunday services. I heard some mumbling about some people being stuck. I got worried.
There was a crowd of people outside. They had flashlights. There were cars stuck in more than one place in the yard and the driveway. They were together working on strategies to get the cars out of the mud. Some of the strategies were wet, and muddy. But people were working together, to get each other out of the mud, to get unstuck, to get home.
It was still raining.
I noticed that I was parked on the grass. So I checked to see if I was stuck and found out that I could get my car off the grass. There was a little issue of where I would go after that. The party's hostess volunteered that her son could lead me with his flashlight, so I would know where I could drive and where I could not drive.
That's what he did, standing in the rain, getting sopping wet. He walked right in front of my car, showing me just where to go and where to avoid, where the narrow path was that I needed to drive on, and where I would be on solid ground.
It is Advent, and suddenly I think about the promise that God will come. I don't know why it is that I think it. Maybe it's the dark night, or the figure with the light, walking ahead of me. Maybe it's the mud, and all of the people getting stuck, that makes me think of God's humanity, the incarnation. God came here to share all of it: the mud, the rain, the icy cold, the darkness and the danger. God came here to share all of it: the fear of being lost, the pain of loneliness, of sorrow, of death: and to redeem it.
It is Advent, and in the dark, muddy, rainy night all I can think of is Emmanuel.
God is with us.