Paul’s Message: A Pondering Christmas

WisemenLet’s take a cue from Mary this year. Let’s ponder.

When Gabe the angel came visit, he opened this everyday conversation with, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Of course, this wasn’t an everyday conversation. It’s not every day that an angel chats with an young teenage girl in a small town far from the center of anything.  It was an extraordinary conversation. Mary knew it. It perplexed her. What did she do? She pondered.

It’s easy to go through this season without pondering.  There is so much to do. There are so many carols to sing, so many gifts to wrap, so many parties, and gatherings, and concerts, and on and on.  It’s easy to wake up in January having celebrated much, but pondered little.

For some of us, the season is a little more blue. We are supposed to be happy. We do our best to put a smile on our face. We try and get into the spirit of things. But on the inside, the more we try and be happy, the more we slide into the darker corners of our hearts.  We grieve the loss of a loved one, or struggle with an inner hurt. We wake up in January, emotionally wrung out from a holiday known for joy.

Whether we are on the happy side or the blue side of the holiday season, I believe that we can grow from Mary’s example. We can pause to ponder.

When we ponder, we pause to turn things over in our heads and hearts. We listen. We share. We wonder. We question. We doubt. We examine. Sometimes, we even come to believe. That is to say, we come to discover that the good news of a coming savior is not just for others, it’s for us.

Perhaps you would benefit from some communal pondering. Ponder with a friend. Ponder with your church.  Our worship services, sunday school classes, mid-week bible studies, and more are there to give us an opportunity to ponder the significance and depth of the one whose coming we await. When we ponder together, we are reminded that we are not alone.

After Mary pondered, she was able to say yes to God’s invitation. She ended up singing a pretty profound and joyous song of good news that still echoes today.

When we ponder, it gives us opportunity to sense an angel’s greeting (It might not be the angel Gabriel. Maybe it will be angel Gus, or angel Betty, or Angel Hala), “favored one! The Lord is with you.”

And we can sense that in the midst of everything, God is waiting to bring peace to our hearts and peace to the world.

May you ponder this Advent and Christmas, and may you be blessed.
Paul

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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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