At the beginning of worship: Pastor Kris began the story…
The crèche is empty. There are no characters in the manger scene.
For today, throughout worship, we will each tell our story.
I invite you into Holy Imagination—that space in which God appears. In a time of long ago that resonated today, the prophet Joel says to us:
“Blow the trumpet… sound the alarm…! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!” (Joel 2:1-2, NRSV)
And in that day of great fear, the darkness births something new, for Joel tells us that God “…will pour out (God’s) spirit on all flesh; (our) sons and (our) daughters shall prophesy, (our) old men (and women will) dream dreams, and (our) young men (and women) shall see visions” (Joel 2:28, NRSV).
These are ACTIVE, ongoing roles, ones into which we life today. So come! Recognize the Holy Right Here! If you have a smart phone, keep it ready! For YOU are invited to tell the story. You NEED to tell the story.
So in this space, pause. Imagine who you might be in the story. And get ready to tell the story.
The Reflection: Following the reading of Luke 1:39-45, 47-55, Pastor Kris continued the story…
A song. A psalm. A story. This week we approach the (yes) EMPTY nativity scene, I invite you to wonder what role you, and I… and us… play in the story. Listening to the stories in the bible and hear words of prophecy, hope, promise, grace, and love of God Born Among Us, Emanuel, God With Us—How do we… how will we… how should we… tell the Story today?
For throughout human history, this story has been told. In many forms. In many settings. Around the fire. In small groups. In homes. To our children. In faith communities. Through letters. And books. And movies. And art. Music. Dance. The story is told daily out on the streets. During times of famine. War. Despair. Loneliness. In hospitals and nursing homes. The lament comes from those that are outcast. Homeless. Enslaved. Despised. Seen as less than human. Over the past four weeks, as we have been sitting here, silently been waiting for the birth of the Christmas story.
And we have heard the incomprehensible narrative of the great hope beyond the anguish. This inconceivable idea of God being With Us as told through the lived experience of the cosmos, and the signs that arise “in the sun, the moon, and the stars” (Luke 21:25). The wild locust and honey hopes of the preacher John shouting out in the desert. Today we hear of the hope to be birthed through the stories of Mary, Elizabeth, and the child yet to be born. Tomorrow we hear the tale through the words Joseph the carpenter. We hear the story from people, shepherds, working third shift. And ethereal beings, angels, singing on high.
As people living in the 21st century, we gather today to proclaim this story again and again. This incomprehensible narrative of the great hope that lies beyond the prevailing rhetoric of fear and anxiety—that has always been. We cannot specifically date the text we heard at the beginning of worship from the prophet Joel was written, but he likely wrote 500 (or more) years before Mary and Elizabeth’s story we reflect on today. And Luke wrote about Mary and Elizabeth around the year 90 C.E. And… we are now nearly 2,000 years beyond that.
We travel through time today along the journey of an intimate conversation held between two women, in a home out in in the Judean countryside. This was a face-to-face dialogue, a recognition of the presence of the Holy in an unexpected place. We then shift to the text we now hold in the bible, words written down by an author we call Luke. Oral conversations, dreams, revelations, songs, written communication… this is the same story told through different means. How do we… how will we… how should we… tell the Story today?
Come! Share your Holy Imagination. Sing the song anew! With today’s tools of storytelling, I invite you to tell YOUR story. Face-to-face. Written down. Through visual images.
It is the same story, yet unique. It is why the nativity scene before us today is empty. We need to be a part of it. YOU need to put yourself in the story. Thus, I am going to challenge you to hear the story… this so very familiar story, in a new way today.
The video Digital Nativity was shown. You can watch the video HERE.
Now it is your turn. It is your turn to find yourself in this story. Who are you? How has God shown up in your life? An angel? A dream? Are you that unsuspecting shepherd? Joseph? Mary? Elizabeth? John? The magi out looking for signs? Where does the story get told today? Amongst two people without a home in downtown Madison? Between two mothers being held in a detention center? In the dream of a youth cast out from his family because he is gay? She is transgender? Our neighbors down the street who are anxious about going to the food pantry, or taking their children to school, or coming here—to Memorial UCC—on a Saturday for music lessons, because they are afraid ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) might show up? Who are we in the story of God With Us?
And how will we tell the Good News?
Here is your task: Pastor Kris shared the directions to the Tell The Story prayer station…
- Take out your smart phones – and tell the story
- After worship today (or, if you are the “moving in worship kind of person,” feel free to do this RIGHT NOW!), I invite you to the prayer station in the gathering space just beyond these doors (i.e., outside the sanctuary)
- There are signs that say, “God With Us… #TellTheStory” on the table
- Hold the picture in front of yourself… or with your family… or a group of your friends… and take a picture
- It can be a selfie, or ask someone to help take the picture (youth and others that like to take pictures– if you are interested in helping out with this project please feel free to offer to take the photos!)
- The most important thing is to then connect! We are going to use the pictures that you take HERE, as a visual way to tell our own story and celebrate the presence of God HERE… as we follow Jesus… and listen to the Spirit lead us in Holy Imagination in our own faith community
- Text your picture to me: 608.438.6307
- Or, if you are a social media type of person, you may “@” us at:
- @MemorialUCC on FaceBook or
- @MemUCC on Twitter
- (and if you really want to tech challenge the pastor, you can post your photo on Instagram: memorialucc9972)
- Use the hashtag #TellTheStory (and, if you are unfamiliar with hashtags, they are a way to connect and search for topics on social media… Hashtags help us find each other!)
- Be creative!
For this is our song. Our psalm. Our story. That nativity scene that welcomes in the birth of something… someone… new: God With Us. That eternal story of the Holy Amongst Us. This is God’s story of prophecy, hope, promise, grace, and love. It is our task to tell it. Live it. Sing it.
So… take a picture. Talk with a friend. Send someone a card. Take food. Give generously. Listen. Be an active part of the story.
Don’t wait any longer!
Tell the Good News of God Here. God Now.
Reflection on Luke 1:39-45, 47-55 offered on December 23, 2018