From the Pastor’s Pen

December 14, 2016

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God.”

                                                      Mark 1:1

         Every year about now, we anticipate the arrival by priority mail of a small, square box. It comes to us from my husband’s friend Grant, who somewhere along the line decided it would be a good idea to sell his farmhouse on the high western plains and buy a sailboat. As I’m writing from coastal New England, no doubt some of you can’t imagine why a person landlocked by two thousand miles of prairie would think of doing anything else. So the box comes to us from Washington State University, lots closer to his adopted waters of Puget Sound and the emerald San Juan Islands beyond than the sheep and cow country he left behind.

         What made this catch my eye I cannot imagine, the little white label on front telling me who put my cheese in this box. Perhaps I’m supposed to be thrilled to know that some lad name James packed the box with Cougar Pride, or so it said. And then there was this, in caps: “MASTERS ENTOMOLOGY – 2015”. Somewhere between finishing the half-planned worship service for Christmas Eve and preparing for the delivery of food and gift cards to those in need, I wondered aloud: “What does a person do with a masters in entomology?” Wait for it… They pack my Christmas cheese. Somehow I found this hilarious, though the parents who may have paid for his degree may think it less so.

         It struck me how many of us started out to do one thing and ended up somewhere else. It made me wonder how Mary ended up in Bethlehem at delivery time, when the census took a whole year. Why didn’t she and Joseph go earlier? Did the trip take longer than they thought? Was Jesus born pre-maturely? We’ll never know. But it doesn’t take much imagination to think that Mary had not planned to birth God’s child. Her family didn’t expect her to prophesy about what God would do by raising the lowly and scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts, as scripture says. Joseph probably hadn’t thought he would adopt a child not his own by birth, or that he would leave his work and flee the country two years later without notice in order to protect his young family from Herod.

         Nobody really planned on doing what they did or going where they went that first Christmas: not Mary and Joseph in the stable, not the Innkeeper who had too much to do and no more space or time to accomplish it, and certainly not the shepherds, who thick with the scent of sheep left their flocks by night to go and see this thing that had taken place. James the Entomologist didn’t count on packing cheese seven months after graduating with a master’s degree. But no matter.

         Twelve days from now the show will be over and Christmas will have begun. We’ll rise from the inevitable short sleep of Christmas Eve to carillon bells ringing in Christmas and summonsing us first to worship. If you will be away with family or friends, God bless you. If you are in town, come.

         “For unto us, in the city of David, and the village of York, and in every corner of the world, will be born good news of great joy…a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Prayer: God of light and life, we only think we know where we’re going, and then you detour us to Bethlehem. Thank you for the unexpected journey. Make us brave to travel unfamiliar roads, trusting the journey that leads us back to you.

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Pastor Anna V. Copeland