In a regular year, last Sunday would have been “Rally Day” at my church.
Choir and Children’s Education would start again, and we’d hug each other at the peace after a long summer. Of course, it’s 2020, so none of those things happened the way they usually do. We were supposed to all be gathered together with the eagerness of a school kid with a new box of sharpened pencils, sure this would be the year they get that “A.”
I am not sure if anybody thinks they are getting an “A” right now, so I am taking my cue from the decision my school district made last spring. At first, we thought we’d only be online for school for a few weeks. Then we thought a month, and then finally it was the whole year. When that decision was made, our local school district made everything pass/fail. As long as our kids were still able to count to 10 at the end of the grading period, it seemed like we were fine. I suggest that we take all of 2020 as a pass/fail year. However you are rallying (or not), let it be.
Last Christmas Eve (when we could be in church and sing together!) I preached a sermon about snow globes. I mentioned that it’s tempting to keep the Nativity in a snow globe. Everything is tidy and perfect. You get to keep it on the shelf looking nice, and occasionally bring it down to admire. It’s reassuring to know that it’s there, but the underlying assumption of the snow globe is that you don’t really need it. It’s decorative. Everybody gets straight “A”s.
The reality of the birth of Jesus, though, is quite a different story. There were suspicious circumstances and inconvenient timing, and it was celebrated by dirty shepherds and astrologers with weirdly symbolic gifts. There is nothing decorative about it. It is a life and death situation.
God chose the messy manger, so I am claiming Jesus for the pass/fail team.
And since God is God and I am not, I am just going to go ahead and rename it the pass/pass team. Because with grace, we cannot fail.
The Christmas story means that wherever we are, God is there.
You do not have to have a home (or a church) like a perfect snow globe to claim God’s love.
I know I said those words out loud in December—I know I needed them then, just as I do now. We really need those words now.
It’s also worth remembering that what previously felt like right side up was not really that, either. The fires of the present time—both literal and figurative—are all the outcome of oppression and environmental degradation that could have been addressed and wasn’t. The year 2020 is the outcome of 2019. 2019 followed 2018, and 2017, and 2016 (See? I can still count. Pass.).
And 2021 will be the outcome of 2020.
And whatever we do to meet the present: in protesting for justice, feeding each other, putting out fires, voting, and doing the best we can with online Sunday school (or no Sunday school at all) God will be with us.