18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;
20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25
This has been the year of groaning in my life. Perhaps you can relate. It has been a year of tension, navigating a shift in vocation, strained relationships, politically-induced stress every week, the heartbreak caused when our beloved denomination chose not to divest from fossil fuels, and action steps in the face of the catastrophic ecological crisis. I’m not sure if the groans of my body and soul feel more like labor pains or the pangs of death. In this season of Advent, I struggle to find the light in the midst of darkness.
In this deep darkness, God is with us. Creation groans with us. Creation has been subjected to futility, not by its own will but by the will of all of us who have dominated all of the resources of Mother Earth, who have not been good stewards of her gifts to us.
But we worship a God of creation, a God of life and death and resurrection. We know what comes at the end of this season. God comes to us as the light of the world, enfleshed in the body of a baby. This season of Advent is a season of the groans of labor pains. While we groan with Mother God and Mother Earth, may we also act as midwives, bringing new life and hope where we see suffering. May we give, act, and pray when the traumatic effects of climate change strike frontline communities around the world. May we refuse to profit from the destruction of Mother Earth and divest from fossil fuels. May we deepen our relationship with creation by learning about the watershed where we live and the Indigenous Peoples who have traditionally survived on the land we occupy. May we dream up new ways of living in community with God, humans, and creation. May we support those working to heal creation through the development of renewable energy. May we breathe in energy from Mother Earth and breathe out gratitude for all the ways she supports life.
We know that this Christmas light will set creation and all of the world free from its bondage to decay. We hope for that which is not yet seen, and we work to transform the pangs of death into the groans of labor. Through this hope for creation, we find our bodies redeemed and transformed, and we see glimpses of God’s glory revealed to us.
Prayer: Mother God, comfort us in our suffering and challenge us in our complacency. We are so eager to see your glory revealed to us. Hold our hands as we breathe and push to create spaces where your new life may flourish. Liberate us from the bondage of decay we see in our lives, our systems, and in your creation. Sustain our hope and anticipation for you to break into our world once again. Amen.
Angela Williams is a senior student, training to be a community organizer and a pastor, at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, TX. She is a candidate for ordination under the care of Providence Presbytery. She finds life in experiencing music, listening to podcasts, and exploring creation.