This morning I woke up and thought, “I have nothing to say or blog about today.” It is Christmas Eve. I posted my Christmas letter yesterday. Pastor Kris and I have already led and co-preached two Christmas Eve services and today we prepare ourselves to lead five more. I’ve said enough.
And then I read Maria Popova’s post titled A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times and it got me thinking (she always gets me thinking).
The sermon that Pastor Kris and I crafted was based upon reflections on the past year. It has been a difficult year in many ways. When we first started talking about this sermon we wanted to focus on the deep divisions that mark our planet right now. There are divides between the rich and the poor, republicans and democrats, black and white, those with homes and those displaced, those with privilege and those without, and on and on we go.
The more we thought about these divides, the darker the picture seemed to get. Honestly, it was pretty depressing. I compiled a bunch of images to recap the year: images of hurricanes, wildfires, North Korean missiles, White supremacists, digital security breaches, political dissension, mass shootings, sexual assaulters, #metoo, just to name a few.
We wanted to begin with this darkness of division so that we could tell the story of Jesus as the light that comes into the darkness. The darker we paint the picture, the brighter the light of Jesus shines, right?
Then Pastor Kris’ daughter suggested we show Google’s year in review video as a way to recap the year.
This video helped us remember that there was also a lot of good this year along with the bad. This shifted the focus and tone of the sermon. Now we were talking about the mixture of light and darkness. Like good Lutheran theology, we were reminded that the human condition is a mixed bag of good and bad. Truthfully, the goodness and badness of many situations is dependent upon the perspective of the perceiver.
The miracle of Jesus’ birth is not that pure light entered into pure darkness. The miracle is that God entered into humanity. Emmanuel means God with us. God does not hover above us, looking down in harsh judgment. God loves us and entered into the mixed bag of good and bad to journey with us until we reach maturity.
And then I read Maria’s post. She reflects on the image of Earth taken by Voyager from the edge of solar system.
And so, on Valentine’s Day of 1990, just after Bulgaria’s Communist regime was finally defeated after nearly half a century of reign, the Voyager took the now-iconic image of Earth known as the “Pale Blue Dot” — a grainy pixel, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Sagan so poetically put it when he immortalized the photograph in his beautiful “Pale Blue Dot” monologue from Cosmos — that great masterwork of perspective, a timeless reminder that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was… every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician” lived out their lives on this pale blue dot. And every political conflict, every war we’ve ever fought, we have waged over a fraction of this grainy pixel barely perceptible against the cosmic backdrop of endless lonesome space.
I don’t know how you will react to this reflection. It may leave you feeling empty and alone in a cold, vast universe. For me, it reminds me of how small our problems really are and how vast God really is. To think that the God who spoke this vast universe into being would care enough to inhabit this pale blue dot and enter into our petty squabbles is nothing short of amazing.
James reminds us, in James 4:13-17, that our life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” His point echoes Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 where he tells us not to worry about our life; what we will eat or drink or wear. Instead, we should view each breath we breathe as a gift from God and an opportunity to share the love of God with as many people as we can.
I stood at the bedside of a man on Friday as he drew his last breath. He was surrounded by his family. I was playing the song “Great is Thy Faithfulness” through my phone as he slipped away. It was peaceful, and beautiful, and painful, all wrapped together. It put things into perspective for me.
This Christmas, may you, inhabitant of this pale blue dot, breathe deeply the love of God. May you not worry, but simply trust in the faithfulness of God.
We’ll get through this, no matter what “this” is for you.