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Spirit-Centered Moment: by Rev. Jeff Barrow

Written by Rev. Jeff Barrow

Interim Executive Director of Mt. Cross Ministries

I love to sing Away in a Manger. I love the thought of sojourners finding even an out of the way safe place to stay at night. I love the intimacy of cattle lowing.. But to be restricted to that cozy little postcard probably does not grasp the heart of Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus.

Jesus comes to earth to stand toe to toe with the empires of this world, comes to alter the fabric of human history, comes to teach us a new way of living. If we expect anything less, we may have missed the point.

Christmas for me has always been laden with imperfections. The avalanche of commercialism is always easy to name, so hard to overcome. Even our most noble acts of generosity make us acutely aware of the growing gap between the haves and have nots of this world. As a pastor making calls in that season to the home bound…aging, illness, sheer loneliness can never be excluded from the narrative.

As a pastor I loved the 11:00pm candlelight service in my congregation. I had the most marvelous colleague in ministry with whom I shared almost everything. Still I would always try to con him into preaching at the 4:00 service while I preached at the 11:00, saying “Walter, you love children and I love people who drink bourbon.”

I suspect only because he was in his own battle with MS and did wear out by the end of the day did he accommodate my selfish requests.

In truth, what always struck me about that service was the amount of brokenness which entered the sanctuary on that night. Along with the joyful family reunions, the young hearts returning from college, the families who had traveled across the country to be together, there were also so many people, believers and skeptics alike, who seemed to have no where else to go.

There were people who had experienced the death of a loved one, people lamenting the absence of someone who didn’t make it home for the holidays, people on their first step of recovery, others seriously in need of recovery who managed to show up. The hopes and fears of all the years seemed to come together that night it a curious, marvelous array of flawed humanity.

In the middle of it all….there was God….tearing open the heavens…daring to challenge the pretense of power…proclaiming peace is a world that loves war.

John Denver in one of his lesser known, certainly not a top of the charts songs, offered these simple words wrapped in a haunting melody.

All this joy

All this sorrow

All this promise

All this pain

Such is life

Such is being

Such is spirit

Such is love

Gregory Berg….the marvelous choir director who helped make the 11:00pm Candlelight service so very powerful dared to have the choir sing that song on Christmas Eve…..composing….inserting at the end of the day the incredible claim that with the birth of Jesus:

God is life

God is being

God is spirit

God is love

It is the voice of radical peace finding its way into a weary world.

Mary it says, “Pondered these things in her heart”. Unique like no other…yet like so many other incredible women in this world….she knew what was up.

The image above is provided artist Vonda Drees - we invite you to learn more about her inspiring art here.

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