Unpacking the Christmas ornaments is always like seeing friends that have been gone for a while. Packing up the ornaments is different, though. It’s a melancholy experience, that should be accompanied by cookies and hot cocoa as it was a month ago during the decoration process. But, after Christmas, often the main goal is restoration of schedule (and furniture), so undecorating is focused and fruitful, not peaceful and pleasant.
Today was the fateful day in our house. Time to undress the tree,
pack up the ornaments, vacuum up the needles, and replace the living room furniture. We played some background music and recounted the recent memories made this holiday season to improve the overall mopey mood. We felt blessed by times with family and friends, while returning our home to its eleven-month-a-year state of (dis)order.
As we packed the angels, snowmen, reindeer, and hand-made treasures from years past, we cushioned the soft ones against the fragile ones for protection. A sock monkey cuddled an ornament from the year we were married, while my childhood Strawberry Shortcake pillow provided a comfort for a pregnant s’more from my maternity days. Glass balls from Grandma’s farmhouse found solace with modern New York team ornaments. A soft, 8 -point buck given to my son this year kept company with a worn out dog and a three-legged cat. Old ornaments mingled with new, soft protected fragile, those with a story shared space with new arrivals who haven’t ‘lived here long’…
And I thought…
‘This is what church should be like’.
The old and the new sharing space. The whole and the broken coexisting. The colorful with the plain, and the simple with the complex. Those with spiritual ‘life experience’ reaching out to those who ‘haven’t been here long’. The soft, cuddly ones wrapping their consoling arms around the fragile or broken. Each listening to the stories the others have to share…and finding comfort in their common journey of love and celebration of the light of Jesus.
The writer of first John wanted the same for the believers in the early church. He wanted children, parents, young people, and church leaders to be reminded of their mission in the dark world. To be love and light to each other because they were loved and valued by God. Their love and light were to add to the lives of those around them, who were struggling with the current darkness. The church was to be the comfortable congregation, vivid haven, the peaceful solace for those in places of darkness or light.
I John 2:9-11, 4:19-21
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light, a story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright;
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.
The United Methodist Hymnal Number 569
Text: H. Ernest Nichol, 1862-1928 (CWH attrib to Colin Sterne)
Music: H. Ernest Nichol, 1862-1928
Tune: MESSAGE, Meter: 10 8.87 with Refrain