Across the Pastor’s Desk: God puts the pieces together
Published 8:00 pm Friday, December 9, 2022
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Nancy Overgaard
Recently, while browsing through a gift catalog, I discovered a 750-piece Christmas Nativity panorama jigsaw puzzle. The scene — with Jesus in a manger surrounded by Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wisemen, camels, sheep, donkeys and angels in and around a roughly hewn stable on a starlit night — brought warm thoughts of Christmas. So, I ordered the puzzle with thoughts of setting it up on our puzzle table in the entryway for family, friends and guests to notice and share in putting the pieces together. For myself, I wanted the puzzle to focus my thoughts on the Christmas story, with all its unique details, throughout the Advent and Christmas season.
Then, just as happened 25 years ago, an uncomfortable question stirred within me. How can we share this story with others? In a world so far removed from the original setting, how can we talk with others about the strange sounding details surrounding the birth of Jesus — not only the rustic setting, but his divine identity, the virgin birth, the fulfillment of hundreds of years of prophecy, God speaking to people and guiding them through dreams, angels, a star?
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Just as quietly, the same answer occurred to me as it did 25 years ago. How can we not share this story? In a world filled with people longing for love, peace, joy, hope, help and forgiveness, how can we not share the story that holds the answers to all of those longings?
In a world filled with people who feel lonely and alone, how can we not share the story of the one called Immanuel to convey the message that God is with us (Matt. 1:23)? Serving as a solo, single pastor in upstate New York, I lived alone but was never lonely. One of the teens from church, who came from a large family and busy household, once asked me if I was lonely living alone. I told her, “No, God is very good company.” We are never alone when God is with us.
In a world filled with people who struggle with depression and despair, how can we not share the message the angel described as good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10)? I still remember the words of a dejected young man who blurted out years ago, “I want joy, and I don’t know where to find it!” Nothing he tried — drugs, alcohol, relationships, career pursuit — brought him the joy he longed for. I also still remember the great joy I experienced as a young adult, when my own questions about difficult details in the Gospel story were put to rest and I at last believed the Christmas story I was taught as a child. How can we not share that joy with others?
In a world filled with people who are burdened by guilt and shame over past behaviors that had painful consequences for them and their loved ones, how can we not share the story of the one who was named Jesus to serve as a constant reminder that he came to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21), to secure our forgiveness (Lk.1:77) and empower us to change?
In a world filled with people, young and old, who feel anxious, fearful, even hopeless about the future, how can we not talk about, and introduce them to, the one who is able to guide our feet onto the path of peace (Lk.1:79) and give us eternal hope (2Thess.2:16)?
In a world filled with people who are disappointed, even distraught, over current political leaders and systems, who long for justice and righteousness, how can we not tell them about the one who will rule with justice and righteousness and whose kingdom will never end (Lk.1:33) (Isa.9).
Rather than worry what others will think of the story, why not share it and let God help others put the pieces together? After all, he designed all the pieces exactly as he wanted.
Nancy Overgaard is a member of the Freeborn County Ministerial Association.