Across the Pastor’s Desk: Living amidst the old and the new

Published 9:22 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Josh Enderson

One of my favorite books is “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of a fictional small-town Iowa pastor (named Reverend Ames) in the 1940s, retelling his family’s history through letters to his young son.

Joshua Enderson

At one point, Rev. Ames tells the tale of his father and him going off to find the grave of his grandfather, who had wandered off to Nebraska at the end of his life. After a lot of traveling, they came upon the grave in an overgrown graveyard in the middle of nowhere. They spent the day cleaning things up.  And then, as evening set in, father and son stand back in silence over the grave. Ames, who is a small boy at the time of this tale, notices something else going on around him.

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We read: “At first I thought I saw the sun setting in the east; I knew where east was, because the sun was just over the horizon when we got there that morning. Then I realized that what I saw was a full moon rising just as the sun was going down. Each of them was standing on its edge, with the most wonderful light between them. It seemed as if you could touch it, as if there were palpable currents of light passing back and forth, or as if there were great taut skeins of light suspended between them.”

Old and mysterious new were joined, just as these three generations were gathered in this scene on the Nebraska plain.

For many Christians, we heard the story of Simeon and Anna on Sunday, Dec. 31st. I think it’s an appropriate story to hear as 2017 turns into 2018.

Mary and Joseph walk into the temple with Jesus in their arms. While they are there, two old characters show up on the scene, Simeon and Anna. They’ve lived in the temple many years, waiting for the Lord’s messiah to show up. And then one day, that messiah walks through the door. It’s not some great military leader, but a baby carried in the arms of his young mother.

As Simeon walks over and takes the baby in his arms, something like that scene from Gilead occurs: old and new converge. The past, with all of its hoping and waiting and watching, is united with the unknown new, full of potential and life. What will this child bring? What will his outcome be? What will his life be like? What will he mean for all of those who have waited so long for him?

As we stand in this time of old and new converging, we recognize all that God has done for us over the past year and throughout our past and present. As we look forward, we know that this messiah goes with us. This baby born in a manger came to show God’s love to each and every one of us, and goes with us into whatever this mysterious new year will bring. Throughout joy and sorrow, conflict and unity, struggle and happiness, our God goes with us.

Take a moment, as you stand in this place between the setting of one year and the rising of another, to reflect on God’s presence with you in the past, present, and future. God’s peace and blessings to you on the dawn of this new year.