What A Ride!

The year of 2020 is almost gone. We’re coming to the end as December rolls around. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs this year, haven’t we? So, let’s look back, shall we?

January saw the advent of a new year! We hoped and prayed that 2020 would be a wonderful year for our Homestead United Methodist Church. Things were looking bright as we forged ahead with plans for the future in January and February. As pastor, I was jotting down notes and ideas for the coming year. Revivals, singings, VBS, and all the other standard activities which we celebrate each year, plus a few new events for our schedule.
But then, along came March, and we hit a roadblock. And, not only us, but almost every church and institution in our community, county, state, nation, and world. That pesky Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus, seemed to stop us all in our tracks. Each day, each week, each month after that, we thought things are getting better. But even though there were up-ticks in our optimism from time to time during the year, here it is December, and Covid is still around. Friends, neighbors, loved ones are still testing positive for it, still contracting it, still getting sick from it, and sadly, still dying from it.

Where does it go from here? Perhaps only God knows the answer to that question. We’ve been told by our country’s leadership and the drug manufacturers that a vaccine is ready to go soon. But we haven’t seen it yet. Others say it may take months to even years for everyone to have access to the vaccine. Even though we wallow in our malaise of self-pity wondering what the future holds, we still press on, serving a God who has all things (including Covid) under His feet. We must look to Him as our strength during these difficult times.

Finally, November rolled around. It was a tough month here at our beloved Homestead Church as we lost our supporter, lay leader, administrative board chair, and perhaps his most important title “friend,” Tom Bristow. Tom’s passing leaves a hole in our hearts and in our church. We continue to keep dear Margie and their family in our thoughts and prayers leading up to their first Christmas without him. We also said goodbye to David as he moves on to hopefully bigger and better things. We wish him the best as seeks that new place he feels God is leading him to!

Here it is- DECEMBER! Our hopes are for a better 2021- hoping for an end to Covid, hoping to get back to normal, hoping for all our congregants to be able to worship together again, hoping for Sunday School and Wednesday Night Life to get back to what it used to be.

That word “normal” seems so strange to us now since it seems we have new “normals.” So we pray that God will get us back to our old “normal” or teach us how to adapt to the new “normals” we face.

But December also brings Christmas! Yay! The month we celebrate our Savior’s birth! While 2020’s Christmas may not bring the same “normal” activities at Homestead Church as in past years, we’ll still celebrate and remember “the reason for the season.”

In my devotions the other day, I ran across this Christmas story that I thought I’d share with you in my last pastoral newsletter article of 2020.
Among the countless Christmas legends, there is one involving a Christmas spider. According to this legend, when Joseph was warned in a dream to flee from King Herod and the massacre which he intended to inflict upon the children of Bethlehem, several animals from the manger decided to accompany the Holy Family on their journey. Each of the animals was determined to protect the baby Jesus, and each felt sure his or her particular talents would prove invaluable in that task. There also happened to be a spider who wanted to come. Yet none of the other animals felt the spider would be helpful. After all, she was only an insect. She had no keen ears or sharp teeth, no strong bones and no claws whatsoever. However, the spider persistently pleaded to be included, until at last the other animals agreed she could join them, provided she did not get in the way.
Unfortunately, as the journey unfolded, all of the other supposedly brave animals either were frightened off or else were distracted. They ended up returning home or embarking on a more appealing adventure of their own. With Herod’s troops on the march, and with the Holy Family growing more and more tired, Joseph and Mary had little choice but to try and hide. Finding a small and inconspicuous cave, they huddled inside, seeking shelter and rest, with the donkey and the spider their only remaining companions. Holding Jesus in her arms, Mary gently rocked him to sleep, and, for a while, it appeared everything would be fine. The only immediate problem was the chill in the air. Seeking to be of help in some small way, the spider carefully wove a web over the opening of the cave to try to keep the baby warm.

The spider had just finished her weaving when suddenly voices were heard outside the cave. The soldiers had caught up with the Holy Family, and they were diligently searching the entire area. When they came to the cave where the Holy Family was hidden, both Mary and Joseph held their breath, certain their doom was upon them. Yet the soldiers passed by the cave. One soldier said it was a waste of time to search it, since anyone who had entered the cave would have broken the spider’s web over the opening. Thus it was that the seemingly insignificant spider saved the day; and the legend goes on to say that this is why we hang tinsel on our Christmas trees … to remind us of the silver strands of the web which the little spider wove … and to remind us that no act of kindness, no act of courage, no act through which we seek peace with justice is ever wasted.

The legend also reminds me that someone once suggested we need not only to keep Christ in Christmas but also, believe it or not, to keep Herod in Christmas, because Herod, like Pharaoh before him, worships the love of power (enforced by violence) rather than the power of love. And in turn Herod reminds us all that we do not live in an ideal world but one where we often face both the threat and the destructive reality of violence. For the followers of Jesus, then, to be alive in him—to be alive in the adventure the Christ Child calls us to—is to side with all those who are vulnerable, even as the Christ Child was vulnerable. It is to live in defiance of those who see the vulnerable as expendable. It is to refuse to bow to any and every Herod and to any and every ruthless regime. It is instead to kneel in the manger before the Prince of Peace and then to go out to weave whatever webs we can as we continue to commit ourselves to acting justly, loving tenderly, and walking humbly with God.

And so, from your pastoral family, we pray that the God of Peace who brought our Savior Jesus the Christ to the world, will bring you joy unspeakable and full of glory during this Christmas season and forever! Amen and Awomen, as Grandpa Walton would say!