I have been thinking a great deal about intersections recently. This is probably due to the increased amount of time I’ve spent on the road, driving to and from various appointments. Sitting at stoplights, waiting my turn, and making turns to the right and left (never mind the occasional U-turn) impact my direction and shape my day. I still struggle when I stumble upon a “Road Closed” sign and have to alter my course irritated and inconvenienced. Still, we approach intersections and navigate them as we must. We make our turns as necessary. We change directions if we need. We recalculate our routings when we are given no other choice.
Driving about through the intersections of Muncie speaks to me on a deeper level about life’s intersections my vocation as a minister affords me. Over this past month alone, I have navigated a number of these intersections. I have visited with several of our shut-ins, senior saints, reminiscing about years past with folk like Jo Clevenger, our only centenarian, and Doug Amman, who served as College Avenue’s music director for 25 years. A few days later, I baptized a baby on All Saints Sunday. I have then made stops at Ball Memorial Hospital, which included praying over a dying congregant, commending her soul to God on behalf of the church. I have met BSU graduate students, community members, and congregants for lunch or coffee to share stories of hope and heartache alike. A number of these folks have burning questions about an inclusive and affirming Christianity, a sure novelty to those whose experiences with the faith have been nothing but exclusionary. Still, in the same week, I can make a pit stop at Christian Ministries and wind up staying to help bag groceries at their incredible food pantry.
Navigating these various intersections of ministry have done well to prepare my heart for the upcoming Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. December and January bring about their own intersections in the life of the world and the church. As the old year gives way to the new one, the holy seasons of Advent and Christmas tell us of how the Divine intersects with the human. The weeks of expectant waiting culminate in John’s unfolding the mystery of the Incarnation: And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. Then, the season of Epiphany takes us to several intersections between divinity and humanity as Jesus is revealed as the Christ, the Promised One, God in flesh made manifest.
This season also gives us opportunity to come into relationship with our community, continuing the intersection of divine and human. We are grateful for those who volunteered their time and resources in preparing our Advent and Christmas missional outreach ministries. Our gift-wrapping booth at the First Thursday Holiday Market, the Giving Tree, and the Mitten Tree invite us to be Christ’s presence beyond the Church walls. Yet, with all the busyness this season brings, there are times when the traffic lights turn red and make us stop. Advent and Christmas should also make us slow down, stop, and make room for intentional reflection and prayer. Making that soul space possible keeps the significance of this season in focus. Stopping at a traffic intersection allows us to take inventory of our whereabouts and orients us in the direction we ought to go. Stopping at a soul intersection helps us to do the same with our hearts, which is always a good, right, and joyful thing to do.
We continue to navigate the intersections of life as they come. Despite the occasional wrong turn or misdirection, we will arrive at our destination. For nothing will stop God from intersecting with the world God has made. God’s desire for the world demands nothing less. But God often doesn’t intersect with the world in magnificent displays of pomp and splendor. God delights in showing up in the simple places of our lives. The story of Christmas begins with a simple carpenter and a simple maiden. Christ was born not in the seats of power but in the “bread house” – Bethlehem – a simple village, a simple stall, a simple manger. This is how God is pleased to come into the world. Perhaps this simplicity is what inspired Father Phillips Brooks, the rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, to compose a simple carol for the Sunday School children in December 1868. “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,” it says. The simplistic beauty of this carol makes it a beloved favorite. No Christmas worship service would be complete without it. Like Christians around the world, we, too, will sing it this season. However, few carols capture the intersection of Divinity with humanity more powerfully than this one. The final line of the first stanza says all that needs to be said: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
It is my prayer that no matter what our hopes and fears may be, they might all find their meeting place – their intersection – in the little town of Bethlehem and in the Holy Child born there so long ago yet born anew in our hearts today.
From my family to yours, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.
Sincerely, in Christ, Pastor Keith
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