Pastor Ponderings in the New Year
As we turn the page of the calendar, a new decade appears on the horizon. The year 2020! Our theme, God Will Make a Way, suits us well as we face new challenges and possibilities, and reminds us that we are not alone.
God Will Make a Way! Our theme played out well during Covenant’s annual Christmas Pageant as our children told the story of the birth of our Savior with the help of a Mediterranean miniature donkey named Roberto.
I had planned carefully for the day, but as life teaches us, our plans don’t always work out the way we envision them. Several children could not come because of family commitments. As I thought through the cast list, I knew we would be okay. At least the young girl who would play Mary had signed up weeks before and assured me that she would be there. She was eager to be the one who would walk with the donkey to Bethlehem.
The costumes were washed and hemmed to fit even two-year-olds. The script was written, the stage set, and props in place. When the morning arrived, we were ready! I felt calm and at peace, as if God was whispering in my ear, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
On Sunday morning things began to unravel quickly as we prepared for the service which was to begin at 10:30 a.m. The children were supposed to arrive at 9:30, and by 10:00 we had one three-year-year old shepherd and a reluctant Joseph. At 10:10 Mary called in sick.
The only good news seemed to be that Roberto, the donkey, was on time. And while he was soaking wet from the rain that he and his caregiver encountered on their way from Half Moon Bay, the children didn’t seem to mind as they gently patted his head.
The backstage story is always different from the performance. If you were at Covenant that morning, you witnessed an incredible and moving portrayal of the story. The little girl who stepped in and agreed to take the part of Mary played the part as if she had rehearsed it a hundred times. When she held the baby in her arms, the look on her face brought tears to the eyes of those who were watching.
Roberto was perfect, meek and gentle, and glad to be in our warm and dry sanctuary. But let us not forget that Roberto was a real donkey with real donkey functions. While he arrived on time and waited patiently outside for his entrance, John Boles was quietly taking care of things. Shovel in hand, he made sure that our experience and our senses were not disturbed in any way.
This reminds me of something very important. If we pay attention to our lives and look for ways that God is participating, we will be invited to participate. We will be encouraged by the openings that God gives us, and we will want to be part of the plan. Sometimes it involves saying yes at the last minute, and sometimes it involves taking a shovel in hand.
Christmas Eve is a night of mystery, filled with singing angels and surprised shepherds. A star fills the sky, and God comes as a tiny baby to live in the midst of our pain and confusion, helping us to sort it all out.
Barbara Brown Taylor, in a Christmas Eve sermon, tells a story about a time when humans began to forget about God, a time when humans decided that they had things well under control and did not need God. God in his sorrow and longing for his creatures made the decision to come into their midst and live with them.
God shared the plan with the angels, but they were not so sure. They were concerned that the plan was too risky, that the earthly creatures were unpredictable and could be mean spirited. They pleaded with the Creator: “You can’t know what they might do to you,” they said.
God explained to the angels that, yes, there was a risk, but that was part of what God wanted God’s creatures to know. God was willing to risk everything to get close to them, in hope that they might know that he loved them and that they might love him again.
On Christmas Eve we are reminded of the gift of God’s presence. If we are still and quiet, we might even hear the whisper of God’s voice. “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.”
My prayer for all of us as we enter the year 2020, is that we will trust that no matter what is going on in our lives, and no matter what is going on in our world, God has promised to be with us. God will make a way when there seems to be no way, and we are invited to participate!
My friends, listen for the whisper!