-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is the third post in a series.Here are the first two if this is your first visit:
I took German to an intermediate level in college. My final project in that class was to translate a German text literally from German to English, then to a readable translation. I chose Genesis 1. I was comfortable with the English version, and could practically say it without reading.
Let's look at verse 1:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.
I literally had a mini-crisis of faith when I first began translating, because Martin Luther wrote the first verse like this:
Am Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde.
Don't worry, I plan to translate.
Literally it translates: "In the beginning, created God, the sky and earth."
I was interested in the German word for "heaven." I wanted to add something new to my vocabulary. Then I stared at horror, and the pieces came together. Martin Luther did not translate from the Latin Vulgate, which was the standard translation back then. He used Greek and Hebrew texts. He was pulling from the closest source he could find, and the word he used was sky.
Up until that specific point my creation theology saw "heavens" as only the Divine place for God. That could be anywhere. I did not see it literally in the sky. The obviousness of it all was what really scared me. Of course heavens meant sky. How many authors in the 18th-early 19th century wrote about looking up towards the heavens? It scared me because if I could miss something so obvious, what else was I missing?
When I eventually took Hebrew four years later, one of the first verses I looked up without being asked was Genesis 1, and of course the same word came up- roughly translated to "skies."
בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.
At this point, I knew what I was going to find. Honestly, if I had found something else it would have only confused me. To many in the early Bible times, they saw their gods as literally above and below. Their power was tied to natural acts, and they couldn't see those kinds of actions removed from a guy literally throwing down storms. The earth shook? They believed the gods below literally shook the foundations to smite or punish. A terrible storm tore through a town? To them, that was a god coming down and ripping up the town.
Those who read the Hebrew Bible, believed God was in the sky. Besides scripture literally saying God is in the skies, we have three huge clues..
By the time I was born the language of God had changed. People didn't readily say God was above, and we were below. Instead, congregants focused more on God being everywhere. That's why it shocked me to know "heavens" in Genesis 1:1 was literally the skies. Heaven, as I had understood it my whole life, wasn't above me.
Deeper waters coming: This is one of the reasons why we can't have a literal bible. Some of the things the bible literally says is putting us in very uncomfortable places. When Galileo said we were not the center of the universe, it led to a Roman Inquisition! He spent the rest of his life under house arrest just for refusing to back down from that belief.
Now his case was obvious. The Roman Catholic Church flat out stated the problem. The Bible shows the Earth to be the center of the universe, and he was saying something different. When it comes to the moon landing, we are dealing with something more subtle.
People could choose not to believe Galileo, or remain ignorant of what he said hundreds of years before. You can't ignore the television. Stepping on the moon, and broadcasting it to the world forced congregants to reconsider the Bible. Notice I wrote "congregants." Ministers and theologians had already been looking at the Bible from a non-literal view. Pretty much the Holocaust forced people to think about scripture differently, and some amazing work had already been written from post-WWII to the moon landing. Now Churches were forced to consider it too. The moon landing could not be put under house arrest.
Just to bring it all back, and let you know where God is, read the last part of this prayer by St. Patrick:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Born over a thousand years before Galileo, St. Patrick shows us where God has always been when we can't take a literal Genesis 1:1. God is everywhere. God is in everything. As science and language change, God does not.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
There are two sharp edges that exist with this topic, and if I don't dull or make aware of them, it will drive you away.
The first is language. The average person cannot understand a book meant for a Masters level student. It's not that they couldn't understand it eventually, It's just that once you teach someone the language to understand the book, most would be disinterested in the content.
The late Fred Craddock had a way of language I plan to adopt. Just explain it in normal language. I watched him preach, and explain really complex ideas in very down to earth ways. I knew the meaning behind his words, but most in the room just got a solid sermon. Just know this is happening, and feel free to ask me deeper questions if you wish to know the higher church language.
The second is depth. I love to compare theology to a pool. Some of us can still remember what it's like to be a very young child in the baby pool. New Christians swim in shallow faith because their faith isn't strong enough to swim through the deep stuff. Ministers are stuck knowing this every Sunday morning. They realize there are both people who can handle deep end faith and those who are still in the shallow end. Many solve the problem by making everything shallow. I take a different approach. You will know, before you start reading, if we are about to go deep. I will pair that with my faith. I do believe that Jesus is the Christ. I do believe in God. With everything I'm going to share, I came out with a stronger and richer faith. Keep that in mind as you follow along.
There were and are God moments
If I went up to you and asked, "Where is Atlanta?" you could pull up a map and point to the city of Atlanta. This would be true. At the same time, you could put me in a car and literally drive me to Atlanta, where I could physically stand on the land that is Atlanta. That too would be true. Then there's more. You could take me to sights. You can show me Atlantans, tell me their story, show me the history. All of this would also be true.
When we point to the place on a map, we are doing so not to say that that dot is Atlanta. In that way it is not true. A map does not contain Atlanta. Rather, the map points to where one can find Atlanta. Atlanta is a physical place full of real people with real stories. You cannot understand the city divorced of her people and her history. You can know of the city without physically being in the city. To truly know is to immerse oneself in more than a dot on a map.
What does Atlanta have to do with the Bible? Okay, let's talk God. If I were to ask you, "Where's God?" you could pull out a Bible and point to it. That would be true. At the same time, you could take me to a church or a class about faith. You could fly me to the Holy Land. That too would be true. You might have a God moment, where the presence of the Divine was real. All that is truth.
When we point to the Bible, we are not saying "This is God." Instead, we are saying the Bible is a collection of moments where God's presence was so terrific it had no other option but to be kept in the community's history.
If you are taking all this seriously, I need you to take a moment and sit with that statement. It is a lead up to deep waters, and the above statement is the boat. When you feel you understand, keep reading.
I believe the job of a teaching minister is to point congregants to God. This is different than a seminary professor. A seminary professor gives the minister the tools to do his or her job. If that's difficult to grasp, take it this way. A medical doctor's job is to save and enhance lives. A medical professor's job is to give the tools for the future medical doctor to do his or her job. See what I mean? Your minister should always, in some way, be pointing to God. Their seminary experience gave them tools to point.
Where is God? God is in the actual event. The Bible is a shock wave from that God moment. The event itself holds the reality. I have to say this because there is line of thought where people say the Bible is 100% without errors.
I understand why people want to believe in an error free Bible. It makes the Bible easy. One could simply open it up and find some level of instruction for basically any situation. There are multiple problems with this line of thought:
The issue with believing the Bible is error free:
I hope this didn't scare you off yet. We've just started, and we've got a long way to go. Sit with this, and I hope to see you again next week.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Once every couple of years I delve into this subject. I believe we need to bridge the gaps through the growing chasms in Christian faith. One of those bridges is Church faith with Seminary knowledge.
The church gets faith. They understand and know the power of God in the world and in their own lives. Great books by faith leaders have explored the well of Living Water. BUT- church often ignores or refuses understanding. Most congregants don't even know they are being refused this knowledge, and many would choose to refuse if they knew.
Meanwhile, the seminary gets knowledge. Scholars have boldly explored the theological and biblical possibilities, even the ones that scare us. BUT- seminaries are often Godless. The bible is viewed through a secular lens. It is simply an archaeological or sociological book.
Here's the problem. Faith is a blind journey, and knowledge is a road map. The map exists for a reason. All of us have the potential to see a minuscule piece of the Divine. Seminary is supposed to be the collections of those minuscule pieces, brought together to create a fuller picture. In many ways, it still is, but without the journey the map is null and void.
I want to bring those pieces back together.
This is where, if you have any idea what I'm saying, you should be getting a bit anxious. To do this, it means I will take you places that are very spiritually uncomfortable. This is information that have broken those before us. First year seminarians learn what I wish to share, and they leave the faith entirely. What should one expect when knowledge is introduced with God cleanly cut out? You are left with an empty void that sucks you into the abyss.
I promise. if you stick around for the next two or three months, I will connect the faith with the knowledge. There are no abysses in my words. God remains, and will remain. Let me leave you with this warning:
You cannot undo what you may read in my words over the coming weeks.
If you are not ready, just skip the meditations for a bit. I want to get real, but this reality is a one way trip. This isn't a trick. You have to be ready for what I'm going to share.
That being said, as always, I'm excited. Biblical interpretation and theology are the two things I can pull out soap boxes for, or geek out over. Stick around, and you won't be disappointed. Hang back, and I won't be disappointed. No disappointment anywhere.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
5 Therefore, when he comes into the world he says,
You didn’t want a sacrifice or an offering,
but you prepared a body for me;
6 you weren’t pleased with entirely burned offerings or a sin offering.
7 So then I said,
“Look, I’ve come to do your will, God.
This has been written about me in the scroll.”
Hebrews 10:5-7 CEB
Perfection is not compatible with community.
Christians are called to a place that is pulls from itself. It's arguably a tension that is greater than any other tension in the Christian faith. We are called to seek perfection knowing we can't possibly obtain it. More than that, we are called to look for that perfection within community, which makes the task monumentally harder. This is because we are born individual. As a newborn, we can't help but be self-centered, our only understanding of the world only coming from our experience.
As we grow and learn we begin to see those around us, and in acknowledging those people, we begin to become selfish or selfless. We cannot call someone selfish until they understand their actions are purposefully taking something from someone else so they can personally have it. Not all selfish behavior is bad, and not all selfless behavior is good. This all adds to the complications of seeking perfection within community.
Our differences is often what makes us stronger. Our unity is the glue that holds that strength together. We form social norms to maintain that unity. We often confuse social norms with truth. In reality, our society constantly excludes groups in order to keep "perfection" within the group. Anyone we knowingly or unknowingly exclude are the very ones Jesus calls us to bring back. Our difficulty lies in knowing peace only survives if exclusion persists. Well, fake peace anyway. Real peace is hard work.
Something must be willingly sacrificed to get even one step closer to communal perfection. Communal perfection requires everyone bring something to the sacrificial table in order for it to come together. That's why its always so difficult. Either no one gets exactly what they wanted, or only a few get everything leaving everyone else out.
Anytime we see love acted out in the world, it will always be attached to sacrifice. Something will always be destroyed so something else can live. That is the way of the world. Here's the thing: When we have been tempered with hope, peace and joy, we willingly give that sacrificial love. That's what makes the love of Advent so important. It's earned. It's game changing. It moves us to communion in willing sacrifice.
Let us pray: God of endless love, help us take in the sacrificial love as you have given sacrificial love to us. Amen.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.
Mark 1:35 CEB
My son was only a month or two old when I decided I wanted to make him a Super Baby costume. We had been blessed with an over abundance of onsies, and I was eyeing two that would work perfectly.
In all, the costume was made from two onsies, an old red shirt of mine, yellow scrap fabric, and bits and pieces I found in my craft corner. I gleefully cut and stitched together, until I had the finished project that started in my head.
Now, let's get things straight. Did I make that costume for my son? No. Maybe I tried to delude myself while I was doing it, but there was nothing my son could appreciate or enjoy about that costume when he wore it. I did something for the joy it would bring myself. While we should concern ourselves with the needs and joys of others, sometimes we've just gotta do something that makes us happy. One of my personal joys is imagining something and trying to make it a reality. Often, that's through costumes. Sometimes, it's the ornaments I've handcrafted for the tree. (This ornament we found at Hallmark. It was too good not to get.)
The point is, allow yourself the gift of doing something because it's good for you. Self-care is important, and if even the Son of God did it, maybe we should too. Also, be honest when you are really doing something for yourself. In honesty, when others might not appreciate it, it doesn't matter, It wasn't for them anyway. Moments of self-joy are important this time of year. So, go! Rejoice!
Let us pray: Oh wonderful God! Thank you for our personal moments of joy! Amen
-Rev Melissa Fain-
4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 CEB
My husband was one of the very first art teachers in Paulding county. When the county made that fateful decision, he had just finished his art education degree. Everything just fell into place.
Let me gush on McGarity Elementary school for a moment. As a parent of alumni and current children, and the spouse of a teacher, there is something special about that school. It's almost like a family. They know me, and not because they must, but because they choose to. These are teachers that understand elementary school kids and give so much of themselves. I love them all.
Then he had to give it up.
I moved to Kentucky to take my ministerial job, and he let go of such an amazing job with amazing people to support me. When everything fell apart, I couldn't help but realize the epic loss. Now we were going back, and that place was lost. But!
Almost like clockwork the job opened up just as we were returning. Was it fate? He applied.
He didn't get it,
But, the previous principle was looking for an art teacher for her school. He applied and was chosen.
Our whole family knew we were in a "meantime" station in life. We weren't doing anything for good. We were getting by. Deep down we still knew he was called to that school. When the job opened up again a few years later we were all anxious. What would happen if it didn't happen twice?
He got the job!
Oh the celebration! Joy filled our home! I can't speak to my husband's welcome, but I can speak to mine. When I walked back into the school, people hugged me! They were glad to see me! They expressed their joy in having him back. I just knew something was right. A piece was replaced. Not everything was a broken mess anymore.
I told my husband I knew exactly what our ornament should be. I got out my baking clay and crafted a Christmas crayon. I asked him to write out the year. True celebratory joy.
I'm not going to promise if you pray all your dreams will come true. That's not how prayer works. Sometimes we pray for things that are not good for us, and thank God doesn't always give us what we ask for. I will say, since coming home, I've prayed for God to lead us on the right path. I prayed for a journey, not a specific destination. When one of those journeying points was a form of restoration, we celebrated.
I think my personal journey is learning God is not asking me to journey alone. The story of God is the story of a family. The moment I said "I do," his journey and mine became our journey. His celebration is our celebration. We are ministers because of those around us, not in spite of them. Sometimes our family is through marriage or blood, and sometimes it's picked up through friends and colleagues. We journey together. My journey is our journey.
Let us pray:
With peace that exceeds all understanding, keep our hearts and minds on you, oh Lord. Amen.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
14 Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.
15 The Lord has removed your judgment;
he has turned away your enemy.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst;
you will no longer fear evil.
16 On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem:
Don’t fear, Zion.
Don’t let your hands fall.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst—a warrior bringing victory.
He will create calm with his love;
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:14-17 CEB
My most difficult classes for my music degree were my diction classes. It required understanding and reading IPA. (International Phonetic Alphabet). I failed English/Italian diction, and after passing it the second time, barely passed French/German. While I still struggle speaking French, (who doesn't, ami' right?) I knew my IPA backwards and forwards. I knew it well enough, I began using it outside of music to remember pronunciation. Understanding how words were built, and I took those tools to seminary.
Flash forward to my very last semester in seminary. I was taking Hebrew, and it required reading and speaking the words. The professor announced, during the very first class, we would need to write out the words phonetically. I was super enthusiastic. I knew phonetics. I could write out the phonetics with my eyes shut and one hand tied behind my back. Then the worst realization hit me as I was going through our text book. Their phonetic alphabet was not the IPA I knew backwards and forwards. This was like using another language to learn another language. I couldn't do it.
Now, almost 38 year old me would ask to speak privately with the professor and explain the barrier. Not my 29 year old self. I was too stubborn. Instead, I powered through, did this massive extra-credit assignment, and squeaked through with a C.
The whole time my husband could see the struggle as I stared at the Hebrew, and looked at my IPA- hopelessly comparing my diction book to my Hebrew book.. "If I fail this," I lamented, "I can't graduate this semester!"
After the class was finished, I stalked Candler's website, continually checking my grades to see how I did. I can still remember the feeling the day the grade was there, and seeing I did indeed pass the class. We celebrated that night with our meager earnings. Then, Christmas Eve came. My husband proudly passed the gift to me. I opened it, and saw a Dreidel ornament. It was perfect. The culmination of years of sacrifice from all of us, and hard work. It was a moment of shared joy.
Before this whole ministry thing, there was a moment where I realized my call. It happened as my high school self sat and expressed the anxiety of feeling that call to the first female minister I'd ever met. I knew it was going to be extremely difficult, and a ton of hard work, but I knew it could be done. Passing Hebrew was a moment of hope fulfilled.
That's Christmas hope. When our hopes begin to come true, we can't help but feel the joy attached to that. We celebrate and share in a moment of happiness.
Let us pray: Patient God, thank you for fulfilled hope. Amen.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
7 Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 CEB
Most who knew me in high school would describe me as super bubbly, always at 1,000%. I was that girl in band camp that woke up singing "Rise and Shine." In my mind, I had to keep that level of enthusiasm. I knew the darkness way too early in life, and I wanted to paint the world in bright and bold colors. (When I wasn't terrified out of my mind to speak up at all.) My high school self had no contrast, only bright and happy.
You can't live like that. We are not built to be happy and only happy, so there were times I wasn't. I wouldn't call it manic depressive. My brain chemistry wasn't shifting between high and low serotonin. That wasn't it. but I was forcing myself to be something I wasn't in "front of the camera." The public had to see me as perfect. Foolish me couldn't understand that always upbeat can't be perfect, because it isn't real. When I was with those I thought I could truly trust, those masks fell, and I went in the opposite direction. I had to release that built up pain like water from a bursting dam. If you went to church camp with me, that's why I always cried. I trusted enough to make that a place where I could let go of all the built up pain. Either that, or I knew I wouldn't see anyone enough for it to take down the facade I had built everywhere else. It was also why I had those break downs at home. I trusted my family, until my high school step mom decided to share those meltdowns with church members. She was no longer allowed to truly see me.
What happened? Hard lessons. I could do everything right, and still not be liked. Also seminary. Seminary will lay you bare and force you to self-reflect. I saw my true nature. I was broken. Always being bubbly was my fear acting out in the world. I thought if everyone was happy, then that meant everything was good. Anything else, in my young mind, meant something wasn't fixed or right.
It was on a day I was looking at angel light. (Angel light is when the sun cuts through the clouds and sharp bursts of light band the skyline in brilliance.) I used to live for those moments on the road. Then a very grown up thought shot through me like that magical light:
That light is only understood because of the darkness surrounding it.
I already knew the good things in life felt so much sweeter and good when one already understood the bad things in life. I extended grace in abundant supply to the world, but could I give it myself? It was at that time the cloud moved, and the light disappeared. Then another thought replaced the last:
Shadows are signs the light exists.
How foolish had I been? What was I doing? No one, including myself, knew me! I needed to put the parts back together. I needed to be real, always. Then my honest self wouldn't always be bawling in a corner. I was brought low to look at the shadow. When the light shines, the shadows fall, and that's good. I could be that. In reality, that one day was the beginning tone for my personal call to ministry. I'm called to set contrast right, but I had to have contrast first. I had to see joy in the shadows first, before I could share it with others.
The shadows are the first sign that something good exists. The shadows should be celebrated, because it means light has entered the darkness, and the light cannot be covered over. Christmas is the celebration of the whole picture; not just the pretty portions, with the bad parts cut out. Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas) is about preparing us for that acceptance. May we all have the courage to set aside our foolishness to bring true joy to Christ on Christmas morning.
Let us pray:
God of immense light, help us see you in the shadows, and understand how you are in all things, not just the things we deem "perfect." Amen.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
1 Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me;
suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple.
The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
2 Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can withstand his appearance?
He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the Lord,
presenting a righteous offering.
4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord
as in ancient days and in former years.
Malachi 3:1-4 CEB
Life sucks sometimes. There, I said it! Life is sometimes a big honkin' candy cane turd!
One of my biggest pet peeves when I look into a church, is this desire to make every message sunshine and sprinkles. Jesus never promised belief would lead to rainbows and unicorns, and neither should the church. That's very shallow and dangerous theology. It's shallow because it doesn't take any real thought to process. It's dangerous because if someone is thrown into life's deep end with shallow theology they are far more likely to drown.
I bought this ornament for my husband the year we adopted our cat, Morse. We loved that cat. He was a mouser and gave us attention all the time. He was also huge. Just big in general, not overweight. He'd sleep with us at night, settling in between our legs, and not move, like he was a dog. During the day, he played by jumping out in front of us. Most cats, if I jumped back it would cause them to hide in submission. Not Morse. He'd run like it was a game of tag; only running to immediately come back for more. He was a very fun cat.
You might notice I've been talking about him in the past tense. That's because when we moved back to Georgia we had to make some tough decisions. Some of those decisions were tough on a superficial level. My husband had to give up the desk and bike he loved because it wouldn't fit in the moving van. We had to live in some places that were uncomfortable for a bit. Jobs had to be taken that were not easy or liked. Something that wasn't superficial was Morse. If we wanted to move on, he would have to go.
I bawled as I passed him over to the the animal shelter. The worker who took him clearly had no idea what to do with me. She wasn't used to people being heartbroken as they brought animals in. At first coldly, she asked why I was upset. As I told her my circumstance, I watched her icy demeanor melt. She told me to have hope, I had a couple of months to figure it out, and he should still be there. It was a nice thought, but I knew we'd never see him again. This was a casualty of the chaos. If we kept him, we'd be homeless. There were no good and right options; just varying degrees of bad options.
And that's an important note. Sometimes you are stuck in a place where any action (including inaction) is bad. There were avenues for peace, but those opportunities eventually pass. History calls WWII the "just war." The idea being, it was the war that had to be fought to bring peace. Reality is, war is never justice. By the time you get to the place where bombs must drop, multiple people wasted multiple opportunities to set things right. Like I mentioned a couple of days ago, peace often requires giving something up. In the case of WWII, the something was revenge in the form of the Treaty of Versailles. There is no justice in revenge, only the lost opportunity to bring peace, and set everything back in motion towards what is right.
There was nothing "just" about needing to get rid of Morse. A set of actions from so many players, including myself, led me to that path.
Any one of us can be in that place. We can find ourselves in a situations where the good options are no longer on the table, and we are sitting in front of only bad options. We still have to move forward. That's when hope comes in. It's difficult to see where we are heading when nothing good is happening. That' s when we have to go back to the beginning and realize where we were headed, and choose the option that is going to lead us back on the right path. For our family, it was the hope that our family would find a new "normal." There was nothing good about needing to get rid of Morse, to reach that goal, but I had to get rid of Morse to get our family headed in the right direction.
This week, peace, is like the middle book in a series. It is the most difficult theme of the four Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Most middle books are not as good as the first or following books. There's lots of set up. Well, that's peace: set up. Next week is a fun week, as the puzzle pieces begin to line up, and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting Sunday, we enter into Joy.
Let us pray:
Oh holy and forgiving God, thank you for your immense grace. As you forgive me for my failure, may I extend that forgiveness to others. Amen
-Rev Melissa Fain-
68 “Bless the Lord God of Israel
because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
70 just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
71 He has brought salvation from our enemies
and from the power of all those who hate us.
72 He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and remembered his holy covenant,
73 the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted 74 that we would be rescued
from the power of our enemies
so that we could serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
for as long as we live.
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
Luke 1:68-79 CEB
Christmas of 2012 was chaos. Family from both sides were moving away after we had just moved back. We didn't have a living room, because the house we were staying in was too small for our four person family. I was working long night hours as a server at a local restaurant, because it was the only job where I could take care of a baby during the day, and get employment after my husband came back from work.
Only, this ornament isn't about 2012. This ornament was from 2011.
I had had a baby, and two weeks later everything happened at the church. All those emotions were amplified by pregnancy hormones, and the immediate loss of them. If I could pin point why this event sent me into a depression, my physical condition would be the first thing I would cite.
But she was here. It wasn't fair this was the world she was entering. She was born in the middle of extreme chaos for our family. Born a church orphan.
For our son, we had carefully picked out his "baby's first ornament" as soon as the season began. It is a picture ornament, so I made sure to capture him in the joy of Christmas.
That all came crashing in around me as, the day after Christmas, I realized I never got my daughter her first ornament. Rushing to the store, the best we could find was a blue spoon. I was heartbroken. That's what we were giving her, "the best we could do." I searched in vain for at least a pink spoon, but none were to be found.
Every year my heart breaks a little putting that spoon on the tree. This year something changed.
I was at my computer when I hear my daughter talking by the tree. "Mom! You can't put my spoon where no one can see it! You have to put it in the middle of the tree for all to see! This is my spoon. This is my ornament, and it's beautiful."
The point is, sometimes peace is born in chaos. Sometimes you find peace like a discarded and picked over collection of ornaments, and it's only years later you realize what you had.
In the bible, everything appeared lost for the Israelites. They were occupied, poor, and the only leader called to speak for them was working for the enemy (Herod). In the middle of all that chaos a baby was born. A child was given. Not to burn it all to the ground, but to bring peace. They wouldn't see it right away, but eventually they would. Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all.
Let us pray: Wash over us, God, and clean away our anxiety and fears. Wash through us, God, and purify our spirit. Wash under us, God, and sweep away that which keeps us from moving forward. Amen.