-Rev Melissa Fain-
When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
Acts 2:1-2 CEB
Like I said two posts ago, every year we pick a new ornament to go on our tree. That ornament is symbolic of something that happened that year. This is our 2018 ornament. This past summer, my in-laws took all of us to Disney World. It was amazing. I don't think we could thank them enough for taking us. We all had the opportunity to do something fun and focused on what we liked.
Besides fun, my daughter and I each had our own life changing event. My daughter's event was very scary at the time, but welcome now. She saw food and water as optional. She disliked eating almost anything, and complained about most meals. Many mornings she would allow her milk to just sit on the table. Put that attitude in the blistering hot, humidity of Southern Florida with the body build of a beanpole, and you have the recipe for heat exhaustion.
I'd tell her to take a drink, and she would pretend to drink her water, while not actually drinking. Her reward? She spent about two hours heaving up nothing in the First Aid building of Hollywood Studios.
That day, she learned the importance of eating and drinking. Two week later, the two of us spent some days camping up north, she listened and followed direction when I told her to drink more. Today, she has a general respect for food and water.
Meanwhile, I was discovering a new truth.
Our Disney trip came with meal plans. I knew I couldn't put on any more weight, but I also knew there were some delicious food choices. I decided the best was by doing a basic math problem. I'd eat less the week before the trip to off-set the explosion of food options coming my way. Scout Day camp was the immediate week before the trip, so I had no trouble packing healthy calories. I was active, a den leader for a group of rising second graders. This is the first time I've shared this, but when I stepped on the scale to look at my amazing weight loss week, I discovered I put on three pounds that week! I would be going to Disney weighing more than I planned.
At the park, I began to see food differently. While my daughter was beginning to succumb to heat exhaustion, I was eating an apple crumble ala mode. Staring down at the quickly melting ice cream I realized I didn't have to do this. Tossing the remainder, I made myself a promise. I was going to eat less, and exercise more. I wasn't going to "diet." I wasn't telling myself, "I need to lose weight, so I'm going to follow this plan." I simply knew I needed to be healthy, so I was going to be healthy.
Now I've lost 30 pounds, and I have 10 more pounds to go. Being healthy, caused me to set goals. I feel good for the first time in years! Good days are active days!
You see Mickey Mouse on our Christmas Tree. I see a moment where half our family had a moment of clarity, and changed their life.
This is what it means when we are told faith produces fruit. What our soul believes, our soul speaks through our bodies and actions. At Disney World we changed, and the change produced action.
The Spirit is like fire because, like fire it bursts through everything false and burns down everything but the truth. We can't help but act towards God's Kingdom, because God's Kingdom is the truth, and everyone should know it. A Christian speaks truth all the time, and often without a single word.
The Spirit lit upon those Apostles that first Pentecost, It didn't matter what was going to happen (for most, terrible deaths), they were going to speak the truth into the world. Our actions speak to our souls, and a soul focused on God's love made manifest through Jesus speaks love into the world. As Advent begins this Sunday, let good change come from our core innermost being, and reflect in what we do.
Let us pray:
God of love, help change our soul so we can speak your Love into the world, often times without a single word. Amen.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Important note: This was only on our tree for a couple of days many years ago. It was put there during the height of the Wreaking Ball video. I personally thought it was hilarious. Also, this is the week before Advent officially begins, so I'm being a little less serious, and a little more fun this week.
Half a decade ago our life was tough. Tough like scraping pennies together to have enough for groceries after coupons tough. Tough like needing to work difficult hours as a waitress to get those pennies tough. Christmas was just a reminder of how tough it really was. For me, I'd survive. I'd been through tight Christmas' before. My sister and I, as teens, decorated the house with dollar store decorations when we couldn't afford anything else. We celebrated with Coke bottles and knickknacks. My kids, however, had no context. How would we bring Christmas, when we could barely bring dinner?
I brought little things into the home. I left notes for my son, and printed out jokes to leave around the house. Yes, we bought dollar store items to decorate. Like, I still hang this green felt snowflake ornament I purchased all those years ago.
And yes, I found this printout of Miley Cyrus to attach to a Christmas ornament. It wasn't side splitting hilarious, but it was fun.
When we think of Jesus, we somehow get caught up in this stoic interpretation of events. All the hay was perfect, with nary a sheep dropping in sight. The weather is comfortable. The animals were all silent. You don't have to work on a farm to know that's not how it works. You are in a middle of a conversation and suddenly the sheep is dropping pellets right next to you. The smell is not peaches and cream, but animal urine and whatever they're eating. If there were pigs, then you can be promised slop will smell rancid.
Which reminds me: a manger is a feeding trough. You don't think the animals, who normally ate from where Jesus was sleeping, wasn't constantly trying to get to where he was? It wasn't a picture perfect sight, but it was something Mary and Joseph could laugh about years later.
The truth of the matter is, the more we are willing to see the practical reality of Christmas, the easier it will be for us to be content with the results. Christmas is real, warts and all.
Let us pray:
Dear Father in Heaven,
As we remember your Son, help us let go of our perfection to laugh at and enjoy the imperfection.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
I've had some Advent themes in the past. I've tied it into a devotional of ministerial colleagues, and I've done weekly themes. I've done Advent Goes to the Movies, and I've done Advent related to the parts of a tree. This year I want to relax, and do something kinda fun. I'm going to relate the Christmas season to Christmas tree ornaments. It may be one a week, or five. We'll play it by ear!
Our family will make a joke out of anything. Not at the expense of others. We're not that kind of family. Mostly at the expense of ourselves. Therefore, it shouldn't be too surprising that our humor makes it way over to our Christmas Tree.
Every year we pick an ornament that symbolizes our year. Last year's ornament perfectly captured the essence of our year.
In 2017 our septic tank exploded all over our house. Everything was stinky, including us. We couldn't get a plumber out to fix our problem, and we spent a good week without the ability to wash our dishes, clean our clothes or bath. It was pretty nasty near the end. Some of you shared our problem, when only a few weeks later many in our county was without water because of Snow-magedon.
So, the day after Thanksgiving, we were discussing what our yearly ornament would be. What big life event happened that warrants a specific ornament on our tree? Then my husband spoke up, "Oh, wouldn't it be hilarious if we found a poo emoji that looks like candy cane poo?" He quickly did a search and came up with the Christmas poo you see to your left. "Like this," he said, holding the image up so I could see, "but like a soft serve candy cane!"
I was sold at "soft serve candy cane." I went on the search. The idea was too hilarious not to exist, only... it didn't exist! It didn't matter how many places I searched, I couldn't find anything beyond the standard poo emoji ornament. (Yeah, they made those.) Talking it through with my husband, the answer was simple: We'd have to take the normal poo emoji, and paint it like it was a candy cane poo emoji. Both of us worked on it. A few failed attempts later, we had it. A merry reminder of a time we never wanted to relive again.
Sometimes we need to remember that life isn't just sunshine and roses, and sometimes Christmas is the most important time to remember it. Sometimes life is just throwing up crap. (Yes, sometimes that crap is literally being thrown up through a bad septic system, but sometimes that crap takes the form of other things, like family loss, or illness.) Crap comes whether you are ready for it or not.
It strikes me important that much of what Jesus said on earth was centered on dealing with adversity. Life's often tough, and life often sucks. That's simply true. You can either wallow in that crap, or do something productive with it. Turn it into manure, and cultivate it into something healthy and good. If you can't cultivate into something healthy, at least get it out of the way so healthy things can still grow. Jesus spent his short ministry helping people deal with and solve problems, not telling them they would magically go away.
This ornament is just a reminder that bad things do happen to good people, but Christ is there to walk through that crap with us.
Join me in prayer:
Sometimes liife stinks! Sometimes the crap piles up and I don't know how to deal. Help me find the tools to push it aside or turn it into something healthy.