The Advent Dinosaur

 December 14, 2011 Congregational Meeting

Luke 1: 35-37 The angel said to her ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

Last weekend, our Godson, Elijah, and his parents came to town. We scheduled a visit last weekend so that we could take little three year old Elijah to Starry Starry Nights at Shelby Farms. We kept talking to Elijah about Christmas trees and Santa Clause and reindeer to get him excited for the light show.

We prayed for clear skies and crisp Christmas air. We imagined little Elijah squealing with delight at the bright candy canes five times his size and the intricate choo choo train that might remind him of that magical story about the Polar Express.

When Friday night finally came, we kept building up the hype of the show: Santa Clause! Christmas Trees! Reindeer! Giant candy Canes! Polar Express! And yet, as we drove through the wonder of Starry Starry Nights, Elijah got excited about one thing, and one thing only: the giant tyrannosaurus rex with a red mouth and huge claws!

I started to blurt out ‘but that’s not Christmasy!’ and then I realized that Elijah was teaching us all something about the spirit of the season.

He loves dinosaurs right now. I imagine he loves them because they represent something from long ago, something we do not fully understand. Dinosaurs represent this exciting, powerful force that came before us, and it reminds us that there are mysteries beyond our reach that stir our imagination and hope.

We were all wrong that night. Christmas isn’t about Santa or trees or reindeer or candy canes and choo choo trains.

Instead, Christmas is about the wildest and most unpredictable events you can imagine. A virgin who is pregnant, her old, barren, cousin who is with child, stars that guide wise men across the earth, angels appearing in dreams, and the ultimate truth of Christmas: that nothing is impossible with God.

Through the eyes of our godson, Elijah, I realized how silly it was for us to build hype around predictable images of the Polar Express or the giant candy canes.

Elijah reminded us all that Christmas is about something long ago, something we do not fully understand. Christmas is about this exciting, powerful force that came before us, and Christmas Reminds us that there are mysteries beyond our reach that stir our hope, and our faith.

Pray with me: God of long ago and a million tomorrows, remind us of Your mysterious force of goodness and grace with every twinkling light and every tyrannosaurus rex. Renew our faith this Advent, give us the eyes of Elijah to see your wonder in the most unpredictable places. Amen.


Christmas Tree

Psalm 96:1 O Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth!

The nine-foot-tall tree standing in our living room brings me so much joy. Our tree is filled with strands of popcorn, homemade decorations and oversized multi-colored lights. Every adornment reminds us of our journey: ornaments from each year of our marriage; crafts we made as kids; memories hanging between tinsel and bark…

These mementos hang on the promises of the Prince of Peace… the King of Kings… the Shepherd who will lead us all to more compassion, more grace, more mercy and more faithfulness.

By now, our tree has dropped millions of tiny needles on the floor. The branches droop and bend in odd directions. Christmas is here and our tree is fading. But our tree brings me so much joy because it represents the new life and new hope of Christmas.

It’s as if this tree preaches a sermon to us every second of the day: stand tall, take heart, shine brightly, sing loudly: the Messiah has come!

It’s as if this tree sings carols of wonder and radiance every hour: deck your halls, come all you who are faithful, embrace this holy night: the Messiah has come!

The nine-foot-tall totem of Christmas truth in our living room renews my spirit with a vision of transformation and abundance.

Our tree is a place where our journey meets Christ’s promises and Christ’s hope. All our memories and all our mementos hang on the branches of the Good News: The Messiah has come!

God of lights and ornaments and abundance: transform us all this Christmas. Use all the signs and symbols of the season to speak the truth of compassion and grace into our hearts through Christ, Amen.


The Wilderness

Isaiah 40:1-4, 11 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem… A voice cries out “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places plain… God will feed God’s flock like a shepherd, God will gather the lambs in God’s arms, and carry them in God’s bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

This is what the wilderness looks like in Advent: desperate wrestling with family, stress and that fictional image of a perfect celebration. We dream of silent, holy nights and yet for some of us, we live through depression, anxiety or indulgence.

Isaiah promises that there is a way out of this wilderness. There is hope for a blissful reunion with our Creator.

Like a warm embrace… a tender caress… a loving outstretched hand… Isaiah says: God comforts God’s people. But when? When?

We wait for that release. We wait for that exhale. We wait for that divine moment when the tears are wiped from our eyes, when every burden is lifted from our shoulders, and when we are curled up in God’s bosom: comforted, carried, and calmed.

Isaiah witnessed this embrace. Isaiah prophesies to God’s people: Emmanuel will come, heaven and nature will sing, the hopes and fears of all the years will be met in God one night.

We wait in the wilderness. We wait in diaspora- separated from one another and isolated in this fractured world.

Every day—filled with carolers and parties and twinkling lights but still, we are in the wilderness.

We put on our jolly faces and Christmas sweaters throughout December. And yet… sometimes Advent throws us out into the wilderness.

May we find refuge and sanctuary in this ancient and vivid prophesy from Isaiah: God will comfort God’s people.

God of the wilderness and the night: speak tenderly to us through every hymn and every advent candle. Overwhelm our hearts with Your hope and Your truth that every mountain and hill in our lives will be made low. Amen.

Blessing of the Animals

On Sunday, October 9th, I planned an Animal Blessing at Lindenwood Christian Church. We were in the Commercial Appeal to advertise this event. The blurb read:

Come one come all, large and small, two legs to twenty two legs- and be blessed! Reverend Sarah Taylor Peck, Associate Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church, will preside over a Blessing of the Animals service. This time of fellowship and blessing will take place in the Lindenwood Courtyard Garden at Lindenwood Christian Church, 2400 Union Ave. on the corner of Union and East Parkway in Midtown. The service is scheduled for  Sunday, October 9th at 3:30pm. Signage will direct guests to the courtyard. Bring your pets for a special service where we honor all the creatures of the earth and we bless our furry friends. All animals are welcome. All people welcome- guests, strangers, friends, church members. Bring a friend!

We must have done something right, because at the Lindenwood Animal Blessing, we saw nearly 50 pets, stuffed animals, and pictures of beloved companions who are no longer with us. As we lifted our voices and sang “Spirit of the Living God”, several puppy howls and dog yelps joined in to sing with us. Every pet received a tiny Holy Spirit charm for their collar or cage to remind them of the blessing we prayed over their heads: (Pet name), May the Holy Spirit move in you and through you. May your life be filled with love and protection. May God bless you and your family today and all days. Amen.

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