You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, we are…Those Who Dream, HERE.
O holy night. The stars are brightly shining (even on a night which is mostly cloudy!). This evening’s Bible reading from Luke is a delightful tale woven with the noisy-ness of a decree put forth by Emperor Augustus, followed by the quiet of a newborn baby sleeping in a manger. Hush.
And then suddenly, there is a reversal in the stillness. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices. Suddenly, the glory of God breaks forth, and shepherds are terrified.
The story is filled with a sense of impossibility:
- How in the world did the emperor expect a mass migration of people to go smoothly?
- In the resulting chaos which upset their lives, what impossibly wondrous dreams did Mary and Joseph see as they gazed at the sleeping, newborn child?
- How impossible is it angels would…
- Show up and talk to, and sing for, a bunch of guys out doing essential work in the middle of the night?
- And then that the shepherds would respond with, “Hey… let’s go check this thing out. The sheep will be fine”?
Plus—all of these events are going on more-or-less at the same time. Decrees and heavenly hopes bursting forth in the disorderly order of all things.
We could easily retell the story of 2020 in a similar manner:
In those days a decree went out from the governor that all people in the state should return and stay in their homes. This was the first lockdown of the Year of COVID and was instituted while Evers was Governor of Wisconsin.
It is into this space God sends angelic messengers to the shepherds. Now, I want to say I am fine with guardian angels. Angels are cool. But, if God were to send an unexpected flurry of heavenly hosts to me in the middle of the night, I am not sure what I would do.
Because… come on… couldn’t God have gotten the shepherds attention via a better messenger? But angels? Really? “Surprise! Do not be afraid!”
I don’t know, but it seems to me the angels need better customer service training. Startling people in the middle of the night does not seem to be a good way to get God’s Word out. Couldn’t they just have sent a group text instead? A clear and straightforward message? I would like something more simple
Like this: Ding! Joy to the world! New things are being born!
If only angels sent automated text messages, we could take our time and think about God’s message. We could get around to responding whenever we wanted to.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have processing time to reply “yes” to God, or to have the option to say “no” if we would prefer to stop receiving Holy Notifications?
What if we could just avoid the Holy Texts altogether?
But let’s change our line of questioning a bit. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that in the initial thrill of the hope we feel having received God’s message we rejoice! Them, we impulsively respond with “yes!” as the shepherds did.
If that was the scenario, I sure wish God would provide better instructions!
Wouldn’t you agree? It seems the directions on “how to find a messiah” the poor shepherds were given weren’t very clear. Certainly, the angels could have provided good GPS, turn-by-turn, guidelines instead of offering a vague scavenger hunt! Something concrete would have been so much more helpful than an Amazing Race set of figure-it-out-for-yourself clues.
Have you seen the television show, the Amazing Race? The one in which teams of people compete in a variety of challenges in places around the world? They follow clues which lead them to more clues… and they race to be the first to reach the final destination.
If you remember, for Team Shepherds In The Fields, the angels provide these clues:
- #1 “the City of David”
- OK, that one is not too bad. For the shepherds in the area that might have been a common trivia question. Answer: Bethlehem
- Clue #2 is more challenging:
- You will find the baby “lying in a manger.” What? Isn’t that a bit vague? How does even that work? You get to Bethlehem, and if nearly every home in the city has a stable, wouldn’t you need to go door to door knocking and asking, “Hi! Is there a baby in your feeding trough?” Now that is an awkward question!
Luckily, the song is “Little Town of Bethlehem,” so hopefully there weren’t too many doors to knock on.
That is it. Those are the only clues the shepherds receive. The angels seem satisfied, their task is complete, and they leave. The shepherds are left to figure out what the birth of God-With-Us means to them. And to us.
This is where a leap of faith may seem impracticable. If angels, and visions, and dreams are what it takes to find and understand the Good News of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10)—we are in for a long haul. This is going to take time. Energy. Resources. And the persistence to wrestle with Great Hope.
But then again, giving birth also takes time. Energy. Resources. Persistence. Great Hope. The same goes for the work needed to change unjust social systems. Maybe this is exactly the point: God stuff is not easy. For transformation to occur, we need to 1). Get God’s message and then 2). each wrestle with the impossibilities in the world.
We need to take the time, energy, and persistence—the learning and growing in faith and love, in order to make God’s dream possible. Maybe this is what transforms us into those who dream God’s dream.
Think of all the challenges we have encountered in 2020. From wearing masks to social distancing (remember making, or buying, your first mask?), to not being able to worship in the church building (I remember locking the door behind me one last time in March) and not gathering in-person to sing and make music (I remember the gut-wrenching moment I first heard that news)—a year ago this would have all seemed impossible. There is so much more to this year’s story we could each tell, so much grief, anxiety, and uncertainty, yet now, a short (or has it been a long) 9-months later a vaccine has been developed and is beginning to be distributed worldwide. This one incredible step has become possible.
O holy night. The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the birth of Jesus. God’s-Love-With-Us. May we pause and see the angels in our midst. Let us pause, and sing, and imagine possibilities for the world through the eyes of a newborn child. Humanity has long, long lain in sin, and error, pining. Hoping beyond hope for God to make possible extravagant love and radical abundance for all people. All. People.
Tonight, let us dream. Together let us dream—and do—impossible things of hope, peace, joy and love. With God, and with each other, we can… and will… be those who dream.
~ Pastor Kris
Reflection on Luke 2:1-14 offered December 24, 2020