January 2016 newsletter piece

fresh-dirty snow

As I sit down to write this month’s newsletter article – the first article for 2016 – we are in the throes of our first blizzard of the winter.

Even though it made driving home from my office a bit of a challenge this evening, the snow that has been falling all afternoon is a beautiful sight.

It’s clean.

It’s pure.

It’s unblemished … at least for now.

And because it’s the first real, substantial snowfall that we’ve had this winter, there’s something magical, something refreshing, something nostalgic about it. Seeing it falling so softly outside the window makes us pause in the midst of whatever we’re doing and just watch it for a while. It makes us yearn for a cup of something warm in our hands – coffee, tea, hot chocolate. It makes us want to snuggle into our baggiest sweaters and most stretched-out wool socks, curl up on a couch, and just be warm and content.

*insert contented sigh here*

As I watch the flakes fly and the world outside grow steadily whiter, I find snow to be an interesting metaphor for our faith and the way we live our lives.

Think about this: We are on the cusp of a new year: 2016! The year ahead of us lies bright and new and full of possibilities just like an open field after a fresh snowfall. The only question we have is how we will leave our mark on the blank canvas in front of us.

There are times when our faith can feel like that. It can feel fresh. It can feel clean and new. It can feel like all the potential in the world lies before us. All we need to do is follow God into the future: boldly, confidently, reassured in the goodness of God and the strength of our faith.

But all too soon, the pristine blanket out white outside the window will become less perfect. There will be footprints. There will be what we aptly called “snirt” at our house – that unpleasant mixture of snow and dirt. There might even be dog pee. Before long, we will be wishing for the end of the snow and longing for warmer days and cleaner roads, complaining about the struggle and the cold that the snow brings.

Basically, it doesn’t take long for the magic of that first snowfall to wear off.

And it can feel like this with our lives and our faith sometimes, too. The polish wears off. The sparkle dulls. And we are left with the reality – that we live in a broken world … that we and the people we work with and the people we love are less-than-perfect … that even people with the strongest faith have struggles, questions and doubts.

So what do we do when that happens? What do we do when things around us look ugly instead of inviting? When the magic wears off and all that’s left is the work to be done?

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. [God] doesn’t grow tired or weary. [God’] understanding is beyond human reach, giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted. Youths will become tired and weary, young men will certainly stumble; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.
~ Isaiah 40:28-31

Whatever lies ahead of us … whatever is coming to replace the magic with the mundane … whatever will make us weary and worn, God will be there when it comes. God will walk with us. God will guide us. God will even carry us when the need arises … and we know that it will.

As we venture into the new year ahead, may we go holding that magic of a fresh snowfall in our hearts and the determination to overcome whatever comes our way with God at our sides.

Pastor Lisa sign

Sunday’s sermon: Prepare the Way: Naming

Advent joy

Texts used – Isaiah 12:2-6 and Matthew 1:18-25

  • In 1990, an unknown, underpaid, underappreciated young woman named Joanne envisioned a story. It took her six more years to get that story written and published for a relatively small market in London. And in the envisioning of this story, Jo created one of the greatest literary villains of all time, a villain so evil, so nefarious, so fearsome that more often than not, he doesn’t even need a name: He Who Must Not Be Named – Lord Voldemort himself.

    • Many characters throughout Joanne’s – a.k.a. J.K. Rowling’s – beloved and sensationally successful Harry Potter series are so afraid of this evil character that they cannot even bring themselves to say his name hearing the name Voldemort causes people to:
      • Shiver
      • Jump
      • Let out a little, involuntary shriek of terror
      • All sorts of alternatives
        • “He Who Must Not Be Named”
        • “You Know Who”
        • Even his miscreant followers can’t bring themselves to say it: “The Dark Lord”
    • As the story develops through 7 books and over 4000 pages, it becomes a badge of courage and defiance for characters to be able to say the name “Voldemort.” → Rowling’s blockbuster illustrates just how much meaning and history and power and allegiance can be wrapped up in a name
  • Recap of Advent sermon series
    • Series = looking at different aspects of how we prepare ourselves for a new presence in our lives
      • First week: finding hope as we prepare ourselves by learning
      • Second week: finding peace as we prepare ourselves by nesting
      • Last week: finding love as we prepare ourselves by breathing
      • This week – wrap up: finding joy as we prepare ourselves by naming
        • Joy from the reassurance of being named and claimed by God – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of the universe
        • Joy from the power of the name that we claim: Christian
  • Naming = such an important part of our lives names that we bear carry so much of our identity – who we are, the rolls we play, etc.
    • Expectant parents spend hours pouring over books of baby names, meanings of names, lists of most popular names, and so on
      • Creative vs. traditional?
      • Family name vs. something new?
      • Spelling?
      • Middle name?
      • How does it all sound together?
      • Extends to four-footed, furry, feathered, or otherwise non-human family additions as well spent almost a week trying out names when we adopted Jessi before we finally settled on the “right” one
    • But that’s certainly not the only time when a new arrival requires thinking about names and how they affect our relationships.
      • Blending families creates naming quandaries
        • Getting married – How do you address in-laws? By name (Greg, Eileen)? Call them “Mom” and “Dad”?
        • Combining two families – What do you call your stepmom? Stepdad? Step-grandparents?
      • Expanding families creates naming quandaries
        • Becoming grandparents for the first time – What are you called?
          • Grandma? Nana? Nonna? Oma? Grandmama?
          • Grandpa? Bampa? Papa? Opa? Granddad?
        • What do you call great-grandparents?
          • It’s really important to me that my boys know who my grandma is. She’s the only great-grandparent that they’re ever going to have the opportunity to experience, and she was an incredibly important part of my life growing up. But trying to get a 2-yr-old to say “great grandma”? Nope. No way. To formal, and way too much of a mouthful!
    • NT passage = illustration of just how important naming can be
      • God declaring to Joseph that Mary’s baby would be named “Jesus”
        • “Jesus” in Heb. = Yeshua – means “God saves” (combination of “Yahweh”/God and “yasha”/to save)
        • Text: [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because the child she carries will save his people from their sins.[1]
      • Cites another passage from Is[2] (naming this unborn baby with the God of the ages): Now all this took place so that what the Lord has spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means “God with us.”)[3]
      • Certainly not the only time in Scripture when God gave a name
        • Angel appears to Zechariah and tells him that he and Elizabeth should name the baby John so insistent that after asking a simple question (“Are you sure, crazy angel? Me and my wife are really old.”), Zechariah is struck mute until he writes child’s name down for all to see after John’s birth[4]
        • God gives Abram and Jacob new names to reflect change in their relationship with God
          • Abram (noble father) Abraham (father of many)[5]
          • Sarai (princess)  Sarah (mother of nations)[6]
          • Jacob (supplanter)  Israel (triumphant with God)[7]
        • Later passage from Is often quoted at baptisms, naming/dedication services, etc. – Scripture: But now, says the LORD – the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.[8]  God has indeed called each and every one of us by name as surely as God called all those “big names” before us: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, John, and even Jesus.
  • There is so much meaning, so much love and personality and significance involved in naming. – hear all that love and devotion in OT reading
    • Hear Is’ call to people to declare God’s goodness and to voice their praise to God:
      • Speaking of God’s goodness: God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. The LORD is my strength and my shield; [God] has become my salvation.[9]
      • Praising God’s name: You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation. And you will say on that day: “Thank the LORD; call on God’s name; proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples; declare that God’s name is exalted.[10]  Notice that while Isaiah holds up the importance of that individual act of thanking God and calling on God’s name – both of which can be very personal and intimate experiences with God – Isaiah links that personal praise and thanksgiving to public action: to witness, to an outward and public declaration of who God is to us.
        • Heb. “proclaim” (“proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples) = full of meaning about different ways that we can do that – connotations of knowing, experiencing, caring about, understanding  The point is that there are all sorts of different ways to enact our faith – to put hands and feet and a smile and a loving heart on the name that we bear: Christian.
          • Live God’s gospel of love for our neighbors
          • Embody God’s welcome to those shunted to the outside
          • All the while remaining grounded in who we are and whose we are – Heb. “declare” (“declare that God’s name is exalted”) = remember à As we are sharing our faith – as we are naming and claiming who God is to us in the midst of all the ups and downs and sideways movements of our lives – we also need to remember who God is.
            • Number of resources for praying the names of God – idea: each name (Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, El Shaddai, Emmanuel) sheds light on an aspect of God’s character (God is everlasting, powerful, magnificent, source of our blessing … God is with us)  It’s an interesting study to undertake, especially during seasons of preparation (Advent, Lent) because as we prepare to declare the greatest elements of our faith – that God came down to live among us and then died to save us – it reminds us who we are by reminding us whose we are.
  • But proclaiming and remembering and reveling in the name of God is only part of bearing this name, Christian. As with any other name, taking on the name “Christian” carries a lot of baggage with it.
    • Lots of people’s names come with a story
      • Lisa vs. Lydia
      • David = David Gerald because Grandpa was Gerald David
      • Tasha’s name origins
    • There is a significance. There is a history. There is a life and a story and all sorts of hopes and expectations and heartbreaks and wonders and questions wrapped up in our names. And carrying the name “Christian” is no different. With this name, we bear a legacy and a hope.
      • Legacy = not always a good one  There have been a lot of things done in the name of God that are appalling and violent and, frankly, evil. The Crusades in which Europeans fought to “take back” the Holy Land from those for whom it was their ancestral home … the decimation of a culture and a way of life for hundreds of thousands if not millions of Native Peoples in this country in the name of “civilizing” them and forcing our religion and our way of life on them … the justification of slavery … the justification of the Holocaust … the justification of apartheid oppression and abuse in South Africa … the hate speech used by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church as they protested and cheered at the funerals of fallen soldiers. The list could go on. When we do as Isaiah commands – when we “proclaim Gods deeds among the peoples, declare that God’s name is exalted,” when we “sing to the LORD, who has done glorious things [and] proclaim this throughout the earth” – we have to do so remembering all that has come before us.
      • Hope = But we also have to remember that that is not all there is to the story and that is certainly not the end of the story.
        • Also those who have done great good
          • Dietrich Bonhoeffer – German Lutheran pastor and theologian, anti-Nazi dissident who helped establish the Confessing Church in Germany which decried everything the Nazis were doing and saying  executed by Nazis in a concentration camp
          • Desmond Tutu – Anglican bishop from South Africa who has been a powerful voice speaking out for those who are oppressed
            • Voice for justice
            • Voice for equality
            • Voice for peace
          • Pope Francis – continues to work tirelessly and compassionately within the long-established hierarchy of the Catholic Church to bring about care for those who have been alienated and outcast for so long
            • Those living in poverty
            • Those who have been victims of clergy abuse
            • Those who have been shoved aside by society as well as the church
  • Friends, despite everything that is wrapped up in this crazy name that we choose to bear – the name of a baby born in a feeding trough, the name of a simple carpenter-turned-teacher, the name of the One who came to bring us God’s eternal grace … Despite everything that is wrapped up in choosing to bear the name “Christian,” at its core, this is a name of joy.
    • Joy in God’s love for all
    • Joy in Christ’s gift for all
    • Joy in Holy Spirit’s presence with all
    • So do not fear, for God has redeemed you. God has called you by name – by each distinct, precious, glorious name – and says to you, “You are mine.” Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Mt 1:21.

[2] Is 7:14.

[3] Mt 1:22-23.

[4] Lk 1:13-20, 57-64.

[5] Gen 17:5.

[6] Gen 17:15.

[7] Gen 35:10.

[8] Is 43:1.

[9] Is 12:2.

[10] Is 12:4.

Sunday’s sermon: Prepare the Way: Breathing

Advent love

Texts used – Micah 5:2-5a and Luke 1:46-55

  • Recap sermon series
    • Advent = time of preparation, getting ready for the coming of the Christ-child into our lives again, for the miraculous birth of God
    • Series = looking at different aspects of how we prepare ourselves for a new presence in our lives
      • Lots of different forms
        • New child (birth, adoption, fostering)
        • Extended house guest (relative, friend, exchange student, etc. moving in for a long period of time)
        • Aging parent/grandparent moving in
      • First week: finding hope as we prepare ourselves by learning
      • Last week: finding peace as we prepare ourselves by nesting
      • This week: finding love as we prepare ourselves by breathing
  • Now, you may be saying to yourself, “What does breathing have to do with preparing?” – fair question
    • Often find preparations stressful
      • Deadlines battle with ever-lengthening to-do lists
      • Mounting list of expenses
        • Financial expenses, certainly
        • Emotional investment
        • Physical toll that preparations take
        • Mental frenzied-ness of trying to do so many things at one time
          • Perfect e.g. – preparation for holidays: How many of you have a shopping list to complete, home to decorate, cookies to bake, Christmas letters to send, family visits to coordinate, and holiday parties to attend? Or some configuration of those things?
    • When we’re in the throes of preparation – whether it’s preparation for the holiday or preparation for that new addition to our lives – we often forget to stop. To reflect. To appreciate. To breathe.
      • Purpose of our centering time at the beginning of the service → suggested centering prayer is always synchronized with your breathing: “As you breathe in, pray, ‘Center me in love.’ As you breathe out, pray, ‘Ever-Present God.’”
        • Lots of different traditions and religions around the world focus on breathing for calming, prayerful, meditative purposes – just a few e.g.s
          • Yoga
          • Tai chi
          • Buddhist meditative use of “om”
          • Concept of “chi” in Taoism
      • And when we have calmed all the chaos – around us and within us – we have to opportunity to remember that our actions of preparation stem from our love – our desire to make things good and right and comfortable for the one/s we love and to remember to let our love be the centerpiece of our preparations.
  • Story we find ourselves walking through and preparing for this time of year – Christmas story = incredible story of love
    • Most-quoted Scripture passage: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.[1] → Christmas celebrates the giving of that first, most precious, most extravagant gift: God’s only Son, grace upon grace, hope upon hope, love upon love.
      • Hear echoes of magnitude of this story in OT text today: As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you. His origin is from remote times, from ancient days. Therefore, he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor gives birth. The rest of his kin will return to the people of Israel. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. They will dwell secure, because he will surely become great throughout the earth; he will become one of peace.[2]
        • Not a simple beginning
        • Not a simple story
        • Not a simple “Once upon a time”
        • Hear …
          • Redemption: As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you.[3]
          • Grandeur: He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.[4]
          • Security: They will dwell secure, because he will surely become great throughout the earth; he will become one of peace.[5]
          • All of these stem from God’s love for us.
  • But we have to remember that the Christmas story where we pick it up this time of year begins as a very different story – with a young girl, an angel, a ludicrous proclamation, and a daunting acceptance.
    • Something we don’t often think about = Mary’s age
      • Jewish tradition at the time: betroth girls around ages 11/12, married a year or two after that
        • Nothing to suggest that Mary was an exception to that rule → puts Mary in her early teens when she was visited by Angel Gabriel and told that she was pregnant and that the baby she was carrying was to be God’s own Son
        • Think about stages of development for a minute. At that age – what we now call early adolescence – children are just beginning to discover who they are, to define themselves apart from their parents (likes/dislikes, ideologies, morals and values, etc.). They are just starting to develop the ability to think abstractly, to solve complex problems. The world around them is still very black and white, right or wrong, yes or no. There’s not a huge grasp on “grey areas” yet. And yet it was at this tender, vulnerable, challenging stage that Mary was approached by the Most High God and told that she would bear the Savior of the world. Friends, if ever anyone needed to pause, to reflect, to breathe, it was Mary.
    • And yet even amid the plaintiveness, the hesitation, the worry, the trembling, Mary declares God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s love. → see this in today’s text – as our Advent reading said, Mary’s declaration of love, of devotion, of adoration for the overwhelming blessing bestowed upon her
      • Text: With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. … Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God.[6] → Even through the apprehension, through the uncertainty, through the fear, Mary was able to let God’s love shine.
        • Shine in her
        • Shine through her
  • Friends, we find ourselves at a stark and startling point in our nation’s history. Every time we turn on the news, check social media, read the latest blogs, or pick up a paper, we hear words of darkness and hatred and exclusion spilling forth from those who hope to gain our highest seat of public office: the presidency. The fear and the latent anger and the destructive intention that these words have stirred up in this country are frightening.
    • Just this past week: Muslim 6th girl beaten up by 3 boys at a middle school in New York City – called her ISIS, tried to tear off her hijab, her religious headscarf[7] → underlying racism and prejudice has not only bubbled to the surface, it has boiled over and continues to do so, painfully scalding with all those who come in contact with it
    • Other e.g.s
      • Mosques around the country being vandalized, fire-bombed, burned
      • Innocent men, women, children around the country are being harassed, threatened, and beaten simply because of the color of their skin, the sound of their accent, their religion → exact same criteria that cause people to cry “Persecution!” when carried out against Christians around the world, but because it’s on our soil and it’s not us, it’s okay? No.
        • I realize that this is political, that some of you may not agree with me, that some of you may even be upset that I’m mentioning anything like this from the pulpit. I am a pastor, and I am more than willing to sit and listen and talk and pray with anyone who walks through the doors or calls me on the phone, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. But I am also a person, and I cannot sit idly by watching such hatred and injustice and intolerance be stirred up and still faithfully proclaim the gospel without saying something.
          • Stephanie’s blog post: The gospel is political. … The way this gospel works, the way discipleship works, can’t be contained in box that we open for an hour on Sunday morning, but lock up for the rest of the week. This whole thing we call following Jesus demands that we order our lives around his call to righteousness, reconciliation, peace, and justice.  We cannot answer that call without it touching every bit of our lives which means the church … has got to talk about being faithful to this call in the public sphere.[8]
    • If ever a country needed to pause, to reflect, to breathe, friends, it is us. We who claim the name Christian know that the story of our faith is a story of ultimate love. Ours is a story of ultimate sacrifice for the good of those in desperate need. Ours is a story of grace – that beautifully free gift given out of mercy and forgiveness and compassion.
      • Take our cues from Mary
        • Mary was apprehensive
        • Mary was uncertain
        • Mary was afraid
        • With everything going on in the world – wars and suicide bombings, terrorist attacks and mass shootings – we cannot help but feel these things, too: apprehensive, uncertain, and afraid. But in this time of preparation for the birth of the Savior, let us pause. Let us reflect. Let us breathe. Let us re-center ourselves in and remind ourselves of the love of God that started it all. And let that love rule first and foremost in your hearts and in your lives. Amen.

[1] Jn 3:16.

[2] Mic 5:2-5a.

[3] Mic 5:2.

[4] Mic 5:4.

[5] Mic 5:4b-5a.

[6] Lk 1:46-47, 49-50.

[7] “Muslim sixth grader attacked by students who attempted to remove her hijab” from Arab American News. http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/news/id_11497/Muslim-sixth-grader-attacked-by-students-who-attempted-to-remove-her-hijab.html. Posted Dec. 7, 2015, accessed Dec. 13, 2015.

[8] Rev. Stephanie Anthony. “The gospel is political” on For Some Reason: Wondering what it’s all about, http://revstephanieanthony.com/2015/12/11/the-gospel-is-political/. Posted Dec. 11, 2015, accessed Dec. 13, 2015.

Sunday’s sermon: Prepare the Way: Nesting

Advent peace

Texts used – Isaiah 26:1-12 and Luke 1:68-79

  • I think that arguably one of the greatest beauties and coolest blessings of living in this area is the bald eagle population.
    • See so many of them around here → always a thrill, no matter where you happen to glimpse it
      • Soaring through the air
      • Feasting on latest catch
      • Perched serenely on a fence post or telephone pole
      • I have a friend who reminds me of just how unusual it is to be able to look out the window of your house or your car and see a bald eagle. She’s not from the Midwest. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lived in Colorado for many years after college and seminary, and every time she happens to catch sight of one – whether we’re walking, sitting having lunch, or driving – she is so enthusiastically in awe of what she’s seeing. Her reaction never ceases to remind me of what a truly special blessing our local bald eagle population is.
    • Coolest thing about bald eagle sighting around this time of year = being able to see nests → bald eagle nests[1] are …
      • Massive
        • Average = 4-5 ft diameter, 2-4 ft. deep
        • Largest (found in St. Petersburgh, FL) = 9.5 ft. diameter, 20 ft. deep, weighed almost 3 tons
        • Constantly growing → add 1-2 ft. of material every year
      • Collaborative → built by both males and females
      • Eclectic → building materials include …
        • Sticks, bones, antlers (woven into outer structure)
        • Grass and cornstalks (lining)
        • Soft materials like moss and downy feathers from adults (in the bowl)

eagles nest

  • Recap sermon series
    • Advent = time of preparation, getting ready for the coming of the Christ-child into our lives again, for the miraculous birth of God
    • Series = looking at different aspects of how we prepare ourselves for a new presence in our lives
      • Lots of different forms
        • New child (birth, adoption, fostering)
        • Extended house guest (relative, friend, exchange student, etc. moving in for a long period of time)
        • Aging parent/grandparent moving in
    • Last week: finding hope as we prepare ourselves by learning
    • This week: finding peace as we prepare ourselves by nesting
      • Urban dictionary definition: “Nesting is a ritual performed by pregnant women in ridding the house, the ‘nest,’ from anything potentially harmful to the soon to be born child.”[2]
        • Expanding for our purposes: Nesting is a ritual performed by anyone that involves settling in, organizing, and creating peace in anticipation of a new arrival.
          • This is what we strive for in our relationships with God and with one another as a congregation as we prepare for the new arrival of Christ again. So we’re going to look at our Scriptures and this idea of nesting in terms of those characteristics of the way eagles nest.
  • First, eagles’ nests are massive: big to begin with and constantly growing/being added to year by year
    • Friends, God is big. God is so big that we cannot even begin to wrap our minds around how truly all-encompassing, all-embracing, and all-inclusive God is. – Scriptures speak to this this morning
      • Is: My God, I trust you. Please don’t let me be put to shame! Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me! For that matter, don’t let anyone who hopes in you be put to shame; instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.[3]
      • Lk: [God] has come to help and has delivered [the] people. [God] has raised up a mighty savior for us in … David’s house, just as [God] said through the mouths of [the] holy prophets long ago. [God] has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. [God] has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered [God’s] holy covenant, the solemn pledge [God] made to our ancestor Abraham.[4]
      • Only a massive God would be able to hear a prayer such as Isaiah’s – don’t let me be put to shame, don’t let my enemies win! – and be able to do something about it. Only a massive God would be able to do everything for which Zechariah is lifting up praise: deliver the people, raise up a savior, speak through prophets, bring salvation. And this is exactly what we see in God’s miraculous birth!
        • Despite God’s own already-established mightiness and majesty, God expanded
          • Expanded into humanity
          • Expanded salvation
          • God made room for us in the Kingdom. God made room for us in eternity. And so as we go through this season of Advent and make ourselves ready to receive that glorious Savior and that incredible gift again, we also need to make room.
            • Make room in our schedules
            • Make room in our holiday celebrations
            • Make room in our hearts
            • Make room for God to work and to move in powerful ways
            • Make room for other people within the ever-expanding, ever-astounding scope of the Kingdom of God
              • Those who have been cast out
              • Those who are having a hard time (financially? emotionally? even spiritually?)
              • Those with whom we disagree
  • Not an endeavor that can be done alone: eagles’ nests built together by both mates – choosing a territory, gathering materials, weaving them together → As we prepare ourselves for God’s miraculous birth this time of year, we do so not by ourselves but in collaboration with God and with one another.
    • Scriptures
      • Is: Make your ways known to me, LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth—teach it to me— because you are the God who saves me. … The LORD counsels those who honor him; he makes his covenant known to them.[5]
      • Lk: You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare [the] way.[6]
      • Both of these passages mention ways in which God works with us and in us and through us to accomplish great and mighty things in the world.
        • Is – talks about God teaching and guiding and counseling
        • Lk – Zechariah lifts up his own soon-to-be-born son (John the Baptist) as a prophet – a go-between for God and the people, someone to help God prepare the way → collaborative effort
    • When we are in the process of nesting – of readying things for a new arrival in our lives – we often engage in that preparation process with other people: a spouse, a family member, a friend.
      • Unconventional e.g. = graduation parties
        • Celebrate the collaborative effort of raising a child (invite all those people who have mattered in graduates life in one way or another)
        • Commemorating life/achievements child has had up to that point but also preparing for whatever lies ahead (college, job, military service, time of discernment)
        • Recognition of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” → As we prepare for God’s miraculous birth, we prepare together. We gather together to worship, to pray, to engage in mission projects like [busy bag/adopting a few families] and goody bags for our seniors and homebound members. We gather together to decorate and to celebrate that God loved us so much that God chose to collaborate with us in the work of salvation, even to the point of taking on humanity itself in all its strangeness and frailty.
  • Beautiful thing about collaboration = all-inclusive: when eagles nest, they bring all sorts of elements into the nest (sticks, corn stalks, string, feathers, bones, antlers, moss, and any number of others things) – whatever they need to get the job done … and eclectic mix of materials to make the perfect nest → collaborating with God necessitates this type of work because, hallelujah!, we are all different
    • OT Scripture reading mentions God working with all kinds of people
      • Is: The LORD is good and does the right thing; [God] teaches sinners which way they should go. God guides the weak to justice, teaching them [the] way.[7] → We are all flawed in some way. We are imperfect. We struggle. We argue. We misunderstand. We fail. And yet God is good and does the right thing – in us and through us. God continues to prepare the way for Christ to come again through the work that we do, using all the materials that God has at hand: us. Humanity. God’s perfect imperfections.
        • Find the meaningful in the mundane
        • Find the worship in the work
        • Find the grace in the daily grind
        • As we prepare for God’s miraculous birth, we cannot forget that God is working through us, but also that God is trying to work through every other person that we meet in some way. We have to open our hearts and open our eyes to see that – to see that work, and to see their worth.
  • Here’s the funny thing about nesting when you’re preparing for a new arrival. It can be a daunting and busying task – decluttering and expanding, collaborating and eclectic gathering, finding places for things and tidying up. But in the midst of all that activity, we find peace. There is a certain peace of mind and peace of spirit that comes in the knowledge that the space is ready. Even if everything else about preparing for that new arrival is still up in the air, at least when he or she arrives, there will be a place – a physical place of comfort and security that has been made ready for him or her. → peace that comes as we prepare ourselves for the Christ-child
    • Lk:Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.[8] → As we make ready once again for the miraculous birth of God, as we nest and settle in and seek that place of security and comfort, may we indeed find that peace, and may we encourage others to do the same. Amen.

[1] from The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN: http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-nesting-young/.

[2] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nesting.

[3] Is 26:3-4.

[4] Lk 1:68-73.

[5] Is 26:4-5, 12-14.

[6] Lk 1:73-76.

[7] Is 26:8-9.

[8] Lk 1:78-79.