Learning from the Story of Jesus’ Birth
Last week I had the coolest conversation with a couple who is considering joining our church. They were sharing with me how hard it is to stay positive in this world we live in: “There is so much negative stuff swirling around our family and to be frank, it’s gotten to me. I’m usually a positive person, ready to engage life and embrace the good that’s out there. But lately I’ve been the opposite. That’s one of the reasons we started looking for a church. We need a positive, loving place to center our lives, and the lives of our family.” That last line just sent lights and bells and whistles going off in my head. That…that…is what I want Bear Creek United Methodist Church to be! People get enough of the negative stuff…can we a place that affirms and welcomes first?
Later this week, I came across a reading by Henri Nouwen that seemed to be saying the same thing. He was talking to the amazing part of the story of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke when Mary goes out into the country to seek comfort, safety, and guidance from her aunt, Elizabeth.
Nouwen, reflecting on this passage writes:
"One of the most beautiful passages in scripture is Luke 1:39-56, which tells us about Mary's visit to Elizabeth. What happened when Mary received the words of promise? She went to Elizabeth. Something was happening to Elizabeth as well as Mary. But how could they live that out?
I find the meeting of these two women very moving because Elizabeth and Mary came together and enabled each other to wait. Mary's visit made Elizabeth aware of what she was waiting for. the child leapt for joy in her. Mary affirmed Elizabeth's waiting. And then Elizabeth said to Mary, 'Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.' And Mary responded, 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.' She burst into joy herself. These two women created space for each other to wait. The affirmed for each other that something was happening worth waiting for.
Here we see a model for Christian community. It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us. The visit of Elizabeth and Mary is one of the Bible's most beautiful expressions of what it means to form community, to be together, gathered around a promise, affirming what is happening among us." Henri Nouwen “The Path of Waiting”
I just love Nouwen’s description of the church: “It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us.” God is at work in each of us, and when we come together our first task is to affirm that truth with support, affirmation, and celebration. The church is to be the positive place where my family and I can find center.
So here’s my challenge: When you are entering our worship space on a Sunday morning, are you seeing what the work of worship and community is? Are you coming with an attitude of affirmation, support, and celebration? Do you understand our task as a community? How can you take some steps just before you get out of your car on Sunday morning to “re-adjust” your heart so that you can fully participate in all that church and worship is?
Your pastor, still doing some adjusting myself, Brook