There are times when it can take days before a single verse of scripture rises above the rest to lodge in my spirit for a coming Sunday’s message. I use a process of prayer, reading scripture, and reflection and this process became the emerging metaphor for this week. Imagine an early spring flower poking its head through a layer of snow, finding the sun, and sharing its beauty with the world. Like the flower, God’s Word rises out of the clutter and anxiety of my state of mind. Beauty overtakes the aftermath of violence just as the ashes of yesterday’s dreams give way to new ideas.
And so it has been since humankind first began sharing God’s love for creation with others. A few sentences about beauty emerging recalls a text from Isaiah. Like the flower bulb sensing that the days are getting longer even while it is covered by soil and snow, the light from above is pervasive. The flower’s desire to share its beauty is inherent in what God created the flower to be. Anything less is oppressive. Anything more is God showing off, which God often does. The Lord seems to take great joy in showering God’s creation with abundance.
I wrote in my prayer journal one morning that should I ever see God’s glory in its fullness, I would surely die. I recalled Moses sharing similar thoughts. I imagined the creation of the stars and planets. Whether a big bang or a slow, gradual progression, the energy that was released when God began creation would have been beyond anything that life could ever withstand. Yet, all of it carried the raw material for life. Life is because God is love. And God so loves the world that God’s light shines bright, not just in the heavens, but onto a flower anxious to share its beauty. Not only on a flower but on all of God’s creation.
We are God’s flowers being called out of our slumber
We are God’s flowers being called out of our slumber. God summons us from whatever covers our beauty, that we might also flourish and experience the joy of God’s peace and love. Emerge — to move away from or out of something, to rise to significance, to recover from an unfortunate circumstance. To emerge is to allow our beauty to be seen.
“But I’m not beautiful,” he says, “I’m rather plain.” So emerging may begin with seeing ourselves the way that God sees us. Like the flower emerging out of the snow-covered ground, God sees our beauty waiting to emerge from its cover. And we often cover our beauty with our own deceptive thoughts.
God, speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, declares an emergence from darkness to light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” shouts the Prophet (Isaiah 9:2). God declares that the faithful will emerge out from whatever darkness is surrounding us. Like the flower, covered by snow, we need not allow layers of guilt, regret, doubt, or anything that keeps us from emerging into the light, to prevail.
We exist at the intersection of violence and beauty at any given moment. We notice that someone decided to leave a mark on our truck. We wonder who would do such a thing. A shut-off notice shows up in the daily mail. A sudden feeling of panic overtakes us. We watch as a group of teenagers throw their paper on the ground. We wonder if it matters that the packaging could still be there when their children walk by. We see the aftermath of violence.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
We are frequently confronted at the intersection of violence and beauty. We noticed the wind brought down a large limb that wrecked our shed. We hear the screeching of tires, the crash of metal, and the breaking of glass. We know that lives will be changed in an instant, and broken bodies will be left behind from a split-second, wrong decision. And we wonder what good can come out of catastrophe.
We make decisions every day at the intersection of violence and beauty. We notice that our clothes no longer fit, and try to remember the last time we took a walk or skipped a second trip to the dessert table. We notice a door hanger announcing a musical performance, and we contemplate if we may decide to watch reruns on TV instead. A voice tells us our decisions don’t really matter. But voices often lie.
Jesus said, “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one sparrow is forgotten by God. You are worth much more than many sparrows!” (Luke 12:6-7). What if we imagine that God is with us each time we arrive at the intersection of violence and beauty? What if God reminds us that even before the shut-off notice comes, or the cars crash or the buffet is set, God knew about the intersection we faced. And what if God is there, at each intersection we face, regardless of our next step?
When Mary learns from an angel that she will become the mother of Jesus, Mary is troubled by the angel’s pronouncement. Perhaps remembering Mary’s age and innocence, the angel leaves Mary with a reminder. “For there is nothing that God cannot do” (Luke 1:37).
There is nothing that God cannot do. How easily we forget. God created all that there is, including sparrows, you, and I. God is apparently in love with creation. There is much violence in scripture. The tiny baby that Mary delivers will one day face horrible violence. A reminder of the violence that humankind is capable of doing to each other. Yet, light overcame the darkness. Beauty overtook the violence.
The Wednesday after this Sunday, we celebrate Christmas. The evening before, we remember. We remember a time when God was so near that a young mother kissed his face. An expectant father held God in his arms. Beauty emerged out of the violence of systemic oppression, terror, danger, and ironic inconvenience. Beauty that shined so bright others could not miss the opportunity to see for themselves.
“Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people,” announced angels to day-workers tending to livestock in the field (Luke 2:10). I can only imagine the daily lives of these shepherds. Social outcasts, most likely. Living in the elements with the animals outside of the villages where families are resting.
Sometimes I imagine a sudden light illuminating a dark field like a football field, only brighter. The sudden emergence of glowing lights is more apt to signal danger rather than a peace-filled invitation. Sometimes violence is imagined when beauty emerges. Sometimes violence is real, like the birth of a star. But beauty overcomes the violence and emerges into the light.
My prayer for all of us is that we will emerge from whatever keeps us from sharing our beauty with each other. God so loves the world, that each of us is special. A reflection of God’s love. We are made in God’s image. We reflect God’s love for creation as the light of the world illuminates our beauty.
I hope that you will join us for Christmas Eve at 6 pm to celebrate the light of the world. The Asbury Players will perform the original musical, Dusty, that retells the story through the beauty of creative storytelling, drama, and music. This is a family event. The nursery will be available for use by caregivers with children 0-3 years old, but no attendant will be on duty. Plan ahead.
On December 29, we kick off our new, community-wide program and worship series based on The Daniel Plan. Be sure to read the articles introducing this program. More important, join us for a life-changing experience. The Daniel Plan can help you emerge. I promise.
Here at Asbury, we worship each Sunday at 10:30 am, and I believe that God is calling you to join us. Come and participate in worship, not as a spectator, but as someone who belongs to God. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.