Experiencing Joy and Small Graces
preparation? Comparing our lives B.L. (Before Leighton) to A.L. (After Leighton), we sometimes wonder at the mystery of time and space that existed in our home when we were a one-child family.
While the major changes in our life are often the most obvious, it’s the little changes that have brought the most joy. I no longer dread the sound of my alarm clock because I know that I get to be the one to see that smiling face looking up from the crib in the dim morning light. I love watching my little boy get passed around Krueger Hall between Sunday services. There are many other small moments in my day where I experience great joy, and all of them feel like small graces—good gifts from a loving Father.
As I read the four Gospels, I’m struck by the fact that so much of Christ’s ministry occurs in these small moments of everyday life. Certainly, turning water into wine is a spectacular occurrence, but it takes place in the context of a simple wedding, a moment that finds Jesus surrounded by family and friends. In John 21, Jesus reveals himself to his disciples as the risen Lord, not as a great king robed and crowned on his throne, but as a brother and friend sitting around a warm fire sharing in good food and conversation.
My prayer for you this coming year is that you experience these small graces in your own life and take the time to celebrate them. We sometimes forget that through the power of the Holy Spirit Christ is present in our lives at all times. Though he is certainly at work in the “big” moments, his love and mercy are no less present in the mundane, day-to-day experiences that we often take for granted. These moments frame our lives as we encounter a God who loves us beyond anything we could imagine or expect.
As we enter into a new year, let our hearts be tuned to God’s movement. Each day, he calls us to respond to his good gift of grace, and in our response, share it with a world that desperately needs it. May we pursue his Kingdom with love and hope, always placing his Word before us.
In courage and grace,
Mary, Did You Know?
walked along the peaceful, secluded pathway, we paused at each one contemplating the last earthly hours of Jesus Christ depicted in the 15 stations. The stations are constructed with bases of beach stone and mortar (the same as the lovely chapel on the grounds) and mounted with sculptural alabaster casts. It was a deeply spiritual walk.
As we headed back to the car, I inquired about why there were so many statues of Mary throughout the grounds. He was quite surprised but polite in responding, “Well, she was Jesus’ mother….” Admittedly, I was embarrassed. Of course, I knew that she was the mother of Jesus, but realized that I’d never really given much thought to Mary before.
That same Advent season, I was moved to tears by a singer at my church accompanying herself on acoustic guitar with her rendition of, “Mary, Did You Know?” written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. And, that’s when I really began thinking about Mary in more depth. What was she like? How did she feel about being called?
It’s almost overwhelming to consider the deep belief and trust in God that Mary must have had to accept the angel Gabriel’s word that she would be blessed with God’s son. The lyrics in this song brought richer reflection for me. They delve into what did Mary truly understand about her newborn son.
Surely, most mothers would be considering the miracle of having just delivered a new life into the world, not that the baby would be delivering YOU into new life.
I imagine that most mothers must dream about who the child they’re carrying will become: a nurse, a teacher, a mason? A husband, a father? A kind man? A loving man? But it seems beyond reason that a mother would consider:
Yet, Gabriel’s message might have led Mary through those overwhelming questions that most mothers would never think to consider. How blessed we all are that she was not overcome by the weight of those considerations! How blessed we are that her faith was so strong that she raised the Son of God. Even though she was still a girl by today’s standards, it certainly took one very special woman to accept God’s gift and to raise His son.
The tour of the Stations of the Cross and “Mary, Did You Know?” helped me to truly appreciate Mary and makes me especially grateful for her role in God’s plan.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Oh, Christmas Tree
down two blocks to our local fire department to buy a tree. Once we found the perfect tree, the kids would carry it home, and we would all have candy cane hot cocoa. When we moved to Idaho, I was thrilled to start a new tradition of cutting down a tree in the mountains. I saw before me years of happy tree-hunting bliss in the snowy mountains with a thermos of hot cocoa. However, after one trip of stomping through the snow to find the least scrawny tree, my family was less enthusiastic about this becoming a yearly tradition. These little mountain trees were not the beautiful Fraser and Douglas firs from their midwestern childhood.
The next year, we went to a local tree lot, and, as we searched for the perfect tree, all I could see were price tags that seemed too high, knowing there was a mountain of trees for just a few dollars. For a few years now, I have tried to coax my family back up the mountain only to end up at a lot looking through pricey trees. This year, we brought home a very nice fake tree.
Now, it is a nice tree: the perfect shape, with lights ready to go, no snow, and not overly priced. By all of our family standards, it is the perfect tree, but it is a fake tree. As my guys loaded it into the car, I couldn’t help but think it was just a shadow of the real thing. On the way home with our new tree in the trunk, I felt a little bit sad that, somehow, I had lost one of my favorite traditions. My family lovingly reminded me that there may still be real trees in my future and that this perfect tree would ensure I always had a tree ready to go up the day after Thanksgiving.
Once my new fake tree was decorated with all of our ornaments full of special memories, I sat down on my couch to find that favored peaceful moment once again. I looked at my tree in all of its shining beauty, and a passage came to mind.
In this chapter, Paul is urging the church on many things--one of which was not getting caught up in the demands of tradition and holy days. He reminded the church that many of the feasts and special days of the Old Testament were designed to point people to God and to the coming of Christ. It is so easy for we humans to elevate our various traditions and forget their original purpose. All of the majesty of that special night when God’s long-awaited Promise came to Earth and Jesus joined with us in our journey was brought to my heart and mind by my fake tree. The shadow of sadness left me as I remembered once again that the joy of Christmas is centered in Christ alone. I sat back with tears of gratitude and joy as God reminded me of His peace once again.
Smörgåsbords and Saints
My mother (of ½ German, ¼ Norwegian and ¼ Swedish heritage) embraced her Swedish roots and took it upon herself to create a Christmas pageant early in the 1970’s that was integral to that celebration. She researched the story of Santa Lucia and wrote a wonderful narrative that I believe First Lutheran may still be using.
I found a version that is similar to her original narrative below that I would like to share with you.
The Festival of Santa Lucia - December 13th
Lucia, a young Christian woman from a noble family, lived in Sicily (283-304 AD) during a time when practicing Christians were persecuted. When Lucia was a young woman her mother became very ill. Hoping to help her mother, Lucia went on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Saint Agatha. According to legend, Lucia experienced a visitation from the Saint who promised to cure her mother. On her return home, Lucia saw that her mother had in fact been cured. As a thank you to Saint Agatha, Lucia dedicated her life to Christ by living a modest life of prayer and helping the poor.
News of Lucia’s generosity and kindness spread rapidly and she became known as a person of integrity and honesty. Upon hearing this, her betrothed became furious that Lucia was giving away her dowry to the poor. In his rage he betrayed her to the local Roman officials, denouncing her as a Christian. She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Upon lighting the fire, the flames moved away from her body, refusing to touch her, acknowledging her as a saintly person. She emerged unscathed from the fire! She spoke eloquently of her faith and predicted that persecution of Christians would not continue for long.
Sadly, the Romans were angered and humiliated by Lucia’s ability to survive their bonfire and ordered her to be put to death. She died on December 13, 304 AD.
Ironically, within ten years the Edict of Milan gave Christians the right to worship freely throughout the Roman Empire.
According to Swedish legend: after Lucia's death, a ship carrying a maiden "clothed in white and crowned with light" appeared on the shore in the Swedish province of Varmland during a great famine. The maiden, widely believed to be Lucia, distributed food and clothing to the needy, thus endearing herself to the Swedish people.
Different stories and traditions surround St. Lucia, but all focus on the themes of service and light. St. Lucia is celebrated throughout the world, and honored by many cultures. In Sweden, Lucia symbolizes the coming end of the long winter nights and the return of light to the world.
Light is used to symbolize God, faith and holiness throughout the Bible. As Christians, we are called not only to walk in the light but to be the light for others.
In His Name, Janet
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.