-Rev Amy BeVille-
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary could not have known what was to come when she offered, “Here am I…” It seems to me that none of us knows at critical junctures in our lives, what is to come.
Christmases come and go. What the day may hold is kindly unknown. This year begins with trepidation; perhaps every year does. My father has Alzheimers.
At six thirty, I call my dad’s caregiver and ask if he is up. “He’s already had his coffee. We’ll have your dad ready!” I get in my car; an unusual gift of 2 inches of snow lies on the ground. Ahhh, a white Christmas; dreams are made of such things. I drive through the winter wonderland to pick up my dad. He is excited and ready to roll. Back in the car, we talk.
“Beautiful, huh, Dad?”
He nods. He asks if it is Friday.
I say, “No, its Christmas day… its Saturday.”
“Merry Christmas, Dad!”
“Merry Christmas,” he replies with little affect. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to open Christmas presents.” He nods.
The roads are a bit slicker; snow is still falling. I down-shift; the car begins to slide from side to side.
“What do you think dad? Do you think we can make it?”
“I believe we can.”
“Do you know who taught me to drive in the snow?”
“Oh, that’s right.”
“How am I doing?”
“I think everything will be okay.”
“Yes, everything will be okay.”
“Dad, if we’re gonna make it up the next hill, we’re gonna have to get some speed. What do you think?”
“I think if you do this everything will be alright.”
“Can you feel us sliding?”
“I think you’re doing the right thing.”
“I’ve got to go faster or we’ll never make it.”
Words echoing: everything will be alright. I wonder if he had said them to me when I was younger? I wonder if he said them for me or for him? I wonder if they are just words that somehow made the long trip from his brain across his lips? Everything will be alright.We join the family. Dad sits by the Christmas tree and opens his presents. He doesn’t realize there is a gift inside. Gifts lay on his lap, and he doesn’t notice. I look at my dad, “What are you thinking?”
“You know I’m not quite right.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“Well, Dad, just sit back and enjoy the fire.”
“The fire needs another log,” he reminds me yet again.
“Everything’s gonna be alright.” I put another log on the fire.
Here we are, Lord. Going through our lives, our struggles as well as precious moments of joy… striving to be the people you call us to be. May we accept your gift of a Savior, who comforts us and leads us to safe places when we need to know everything’s gonna be alright. Amen
Rev Amy BeVille, from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); she currently serves as pastor of Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fayetteville, Georgia. She has served churches from Kentucky to Texas and back to Georgia! She has been a popular speaker and the music resource at a number of women’s retreats. As a complement to her ministry, BeVille is a singer/songwriter and currently plays venues from Nashville to Chattanooga to Atlanta. She has several albums to her credit, with her latest, “Second Chances” available on CDBaby.com. She also works as a music therapist focusing on work with seniors who have dementia or Alzheimers. In her free time, BeVille is found restoring her historic home in Acworth, GA.
-Rev Craig A McDonald-
When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife.
Joseph is a pretty interesting character. I often wonder how he felt about everything that was happening to him and his betrothed. With the limited amount of details that the Christmas narrative has, often the thoughts and feelings of the characters are left out. Joseph is a perfect example of this.
One of my favorite things to do is to imagine how the characters feel in each story and add that to the text. Sometimes I can even imagine the character feeling a number of ways about the story that they are a part of. Feelings have the potential to add so much depth.
As Joseph wakes up from his dream surely he has recognized the power and presence of the Divine (that’s often the hard part!). I wonder if he felt scared. Maybe he felt scared because of the complex nature of their situation. Maybe he felt scared because he had an inkling of an idea of what it might mean for their son to be the Messiah and the conflict that would come from it. It could be that he was scared because he was about to be a dad for the first time! What if Joseph wakes up and he is resentful? Have you ever been resentful of God? It’s not hard to imagine that Jospeh could be resentful, having been thrust into this situation that will be very difficult to explain. He could even be feeling relief. The situation itself is complicated but now there at least has been a dream where God has been revealed as present. It’s not as if God has given them a flow chart for how to handle the situation or for what comes next.
Joseph is not given a lot of time to express his thoughts and feelings but rest assured, there is a lot going on behind the scene. Both he and Mary must be terrified, excited, thrilled, anxious, and amazed. Sometimes in the wonderful and terrifying things that take place in our lives we need to take stock of our own feelings. In the season of Advent we might be feeling pressure to find the perfect gift for a loved one or prepare the perfect prayer or song for the Christmas Eve service. We might feel the anxious weight of an exam or from the preparations for travel. We might feel sorrow as we miss a special person who we once celebrated this season with. It’s important for us to take note of our feelings during this time of year. None of the feelings we have are bad and it’s helpful to take stock of where we are in the moment. Doing this just might give us the opportunity to make space for the feeling of wonderment of this beautiful child, helpless and poor, has been shared with us to change the world.
Most Holy One, be with me during this Advent season, in the joyous and the difficult. May I make space for You and the wonder of this Good News.
Rev. Craig McDonald is an ordained minister with the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), most recently serving First Christian Church of Rome, GA. Rev. Craig served as a Young Adult Pastor at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, PA, as Associate Pastor at Mercy Community Church in Atlanta, and as a Youth Pastor at Sandy Springs Christian Church. He earned his MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Columbus State University.
Craig loves mountain biking and all things outdoors. He and his wife, Megan, enjoy cooking, traveling, and hiking with their dog Maxwell.
-Rev. Becki Barrett-
When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
Luke 1: 28-33
Winter mornings make me want to stay in bed. Wait, ALL mornings make me want to stay in bed. It’s not just the feeling of warm feet hitting cold floor. It is the bills that need to be paid, the dishes that are waiting from the night before, and the ever pressing wants of all those who will need my attention today. It is the work of daily life that makes me want to pull the covers over my head and disappear into hot cocoa wishes and marshmallow dreams.
Mary must have felt something like this in her confused and wondering state. The angel is giving her “good news” of her favored status. She hears the words. She knows the presence of God is with her. Yet, the task seems too big for her to comprehend – never mind carry out. There is work to be done and family to please and traditions to honor. There is fear to be felt and confusion to be worked out. In the midst of Mary’s normal, daily life comes a commission from God to bear the Savior of the world.
It is too much to ask of her. Perhaps that is the point.
In the mundane toil of our daily work comes the invitation to do something extraordinary. Not to accomplish each task with excellence and efficiency, but to be present to the enormity of the invitation to live completely for God. The request God makes of us is to be present to people, to extend love, and to live in the joy of the coming Kingdom – in the midst of turmoil and pain and boredom and busyness. The request IS too much to ask so that is why the angel reminds Mary, “The Lord is near!”
We do not put our feet on the floor each morning without the blessing and presence of Jesus Christ with us – in us. There will be no end to the ways God will use our weary and restless lives to unravel complacency and dismantle suffering. In every conversation, every interaction, every mundane task we encounter, God is working out His Kingdom come – His will be done. It is too much to ask of us to do alone.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to invite you into each moment, the energy to live in your Spirit, and the insight to know my only task is to remember you are near.
Rev. Becki Barrett is the Senior Pastor at Overlake Park PC in Bellevue, WA. Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Becki attended Whitworth University receiving a degree in Secondary Education and then graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2002. Becki has held pastoral positions leading family ministry, mission, caring ministry, and became an executive pastor before her call to be a senior pastor in Bellevue, WA. She loves all areas of ministry and developed her own leadership development coaching company because of her love for developing strong leaders using Strengths Finder 2.0. Becki served as the chair of the Personnel Committee for the Seattle Presbytery for six years and now loves her work as the Moderator of the Executive Committee. At OPPC, Becki is known for her humor, energy, and love for Jesus, the church and the Bellevue neighborhood. At home, she is known for hiking, reading fiction, and travel.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
A shoot will grow up from the branch of Jesse;
a branch will sprout out from his roots.
There are some memories that appear so crystal clear to me that I can easily recreate them in my mind. Walking down the aisle to my future husband. The moment right after giving birth, where those first beautiful screams echo straight into my heart. The breezy late spring morning I stood outside at Candler School of Theology before accepting my diploma. Those are all life altering events, and they still feel so real. From the smells, the lights, and feelings. Then there was that stump.
I saw the stump during one of my many hikes. I don’t really recall the hike itself anymore. I knew I was with others. I don’t remember who those other people were. Still, one moment crystallized in my mind. It was no more than twenty seconds out of a two-hour hike. Light cut through the trees as I passed by and hit a very old and decaying stump. The mist from the morning dew was gently rising from its mulchy shell. From its center was a shoot, a new tree, growing. I can remember dragging friends over. “Look at this! Isn’t it spectacular?” Clearly not seeing what I was seeing they gave me weird looks and wanted to move on.
I, on the other hand, immediately saw a message in that single image. Life persists. As morbid as it may sound, it was the very first time I saw beauty in death, the discarded, and the lost. It was simplistic, but powerfully life changing.
This is the image that pops into my head every time I read about the shoot of Jesse. That’s not to say the trunk of Jesse’s shoot is rotten or dead. It wasn’t. It is to say life persists. Hope continues. When life’s story looks like it reaching its zenith, God causes a shoot to emerge and you are in a whole new direction. The shoot of Jesse is a reminder that God’s not through with us yet. We still have stories to tell, directions to take, adventures to pursue. God with us. Thank God!
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Holy and Loving God, please break through our redundancies and shine down on your shoot. Help us see your focus in our lives. Amen.
Rev. Melissa Fain was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with duel partnership between First Christian Church of Atlanta, and First Christian Church of Marietta.
She has a BA in Music from Kennesaw State University and a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She is currently the senior minister at Fig Tree Christian. Melissa is the mother of two wonderful children, and wife to a great and supportive husband. In her spare time, she loves arts and crafts which includes making costumes from scratch, and knotted bracelets.
She has used her continuing education to study new church plants and church redevelopment.