by Cynthia Ruchti

Here in the glorious between time–between Christmas and the dawning of the New Year–an air of anticipation holds us suspended. One year breathing its last gasps. Another yet to take its first breath.

Within the last two weeks, most of the people I know celebrated the birth of Christ. Some of them also battled the flu. Too many. Some dear friends laid family members to rest. Others gave birth. Some celebrations took place in hospital rooms or were wedged between chemo treatments. Others discovered, the day after Christmas, that the headaches stemmed from a tumor they hadn’t known existed. Surgery, recovery, uncertainty, Happy New Year.

Others of us ping-ponged among concern for the ill and uncertain, joyful worship of the Christ Child Savior King, and writing assignments.

With the Word of God open to the left of my laptop and tea and DayQuil on the right, I’m plowing through the final chapters and anticipating the final round of editing. Among other things, I’ll watch for over-used words. The story improves when I eliminate over-used words or convert them to other word choices.

But there, to my left, is my Bible open to a chapter with eight short verses and one word repeated six times in one form or another. If I weren’t so grateful for the word, my editor-self would mark them for eviction.

But no. It’s a priceless word. And God had good reason for using it repeatedly. He knew we’d need it embedded, driven deep, not tattooed but embossed on the frail flesh of our hearts.

The word? Protect. Protector.

“God won’t let your foot slip.
   Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job.
No! Israel’s protector 
   never sleeps or rests!
The Lord is your protector;
   the Lord is your shade
      right beside you.
The Lord will protect you
   from all evil;
   God will protect your very life.
The Lord will protect you
   on your journeys–
   whether going or coming–
   from now until forever from now.”
Psalm 121: 2-5, 7-8
Common English Bible

Here in the glorious between time, we lean into the unfailing protection of the One who won’t let our feet slip, who will accompany us, protectively, through the unanticipated challenges and inexpressible joys of the year to come.

Protect. Protector. Blessed repetition.