“She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’” -John 11:27

Read John 11:20-27

Between Advent and Epiphany we can begin to see that what appears to be overwhelming darkness only amplifies the light. Christ’s whole life affirms this. Even upon the cursed cross, subversively, death becomes a holy vessel for life. I often discover—and then must rediscover—this paradox.

Today’s story reveals pain and death that bring forth glory and renewed life. Perhaps equally stunning was the display of genuine compassion. Even though he knew this death was only temporary (see John 11:4-15), Jesus remained attuned to Martha’s suffering. The realization of her far-off hope was mere moments away, yet he was present in her mourning, carefully asking what she believed, giving her space to be disappointed—even disappointed with him. Jesus isn’t uncomfortable with process.

Martha’s situation is ours in this already-but-not-yet world. Darkness precedes light. Our seasons of deep longing, painful waiting and deferred hope usher in what feels like death. While we’ve received revelation of eternal life, during death-filled waiting we find life-saving empathy on Gethsemane, not in the empty tomb. All the while, hope lingers deep within the roots of the truth to which we cling: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

On a winter’s day it’s hard to imagine hope surviving, let alone springing up from beneath the frozen ground at any moment. Yet I discover life and hope again, in the midst of Martha’s imagination-blinding pain.

After Advent comes Christmas, then Epiphany and finally Easter; suddenly, yet faithfully, each year.

God of winter and spring, Advent and Epiphany, reveal your goodness in every season. We would choose your way of compassionate presence and genuine empathy, as humanity rises from our burial clothes, together in Christ.

Sherri Nozik, M.A. Ministry, Leadership & Culture Student, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary; Chisinau, Moldova