The Moon’s journey across the sky from the darkness of the New Moon to the light of the Full Moon has taught me a lot about life’s journey during these “interesting” times. This picture was taken from the back deck of our house in Georgia.
2020 has been an unusual year to say the least. The COVID-19 worldwide Pandemic has changed the way we live, work, recreate, rest, and worship. When we rang in the new year, we had no idea what was in store for us. As a pastor, switching gears from typical worship services to Zoom worship was a huge challenge. Many of my colleagues joked how they never taught us how to construct this sort of worship in seminary. Of course, when I was in seminary, the internet wasn’t available, and I was typing my seminary papers on a manual typewriter!
As Advent approached, I was uncertain what it would look like. My wife and I, along with our puppy, had moved from Colorado to Georgia in the midst of the pandemic so that I could take a new call. Initially, we thought we might be able to have small, 30-minute worship gatherings with a small number of people in the sanctuary and the rest seeing it via stream on our website. However, as we watched the pandemic numbers skyrocket nationwide as well as in our new state and county, the decision was made to continue streaming worship. It was weird to be recording my portions of worship on a Wednesday for broadcast on the following Sunday. Literally, it was hard to remember what week of Advent we were in!
In the midst of all the strangeness of this season, I worked to find the light shining and to recall wonders I saw around me. Today as I am writing (December 21st, Winter Solstice) the clouds have cleared off and the sun is shining. This morning when I awoke and then headed to work, it was gloomy and overcast. I struggled to see the light in the midst of the gloominess. The light first appeared in a non-typical way. A man had stopped by the church and needed help with rent. He asked for three days to take him up to Christmas Day when he would get paid. The motel’s office was closed on Christmas Day, so he didn’t know how to pay for the next week. Using the pastor’s discretionary fund, I was able to pay for another week at the motel. Times have been tough and when you live from paycheck to paycheck, one surprise bill can throw you off completely. As we chatted outside afterwards, I could see a new light in his eyes. I couldn’t see his mouth through the mask he wore, but I definitely saw a light shining that hadn’t been there before. This Christmas, he wouldn’t be on the streets. As we left, we wished each other a Merry Christmas. Later in the morning, the sun came out. The two of us leaned towards the light without knowing it. The simple act of assisting with his rent and then talking together afterwards was the light that shone in the darkness.
In his book, Raids on the Unspeakable, Thomas Merton offered this reflection on there being no room at the inn when Jesus was born.
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because He cannot be at home in it, because He is out of place in it, and yet He must be in it, His place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons… With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst. (pp. 72-73)
Part of leaning towards the light is being open to the possibility of meeting Christ in the face of a stranger, of one who lives hidden on the margins. Years ago, I met Jesus in a homeless camp; his name was James. Today, I met Jesus again outside a motel. His name was Arvel. Where will you meet Jesus as you lean towards the light? Blessings on your journey as we move forward into the new year.
Check out another post for this morning: A Guaranteed Way To Make 2021 Better by Donna Chacko
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