Several weeks ago we experienced a snow storm…it was an oddity for us in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where I live. We woke up to 11 inches of snow on the ground and over 48 hours an additional four inches of snow fell. We were not ready for this snow…the small daffodils had already begun to bloom. The unexpected snowfall brought the whole area to a standstill for several days. We were ready to celebrate the arrival of spring rather than dig out from a record breaking amount of snow. For several days we lived within the Messy in-between.
How are you living in the Messy in-between as you finalize plans for your Easter Messy Church while also inviting your Messy Churches to walk through the season of Lent? This topic of observing lent while also preparing for Easter has been discussed on the Messy Church USA Team Leaders FB group page (click here to join). Messy Churches across the US live in the Messy in-between by having a prayer focused Lenten messy church or a Journey through Holy Week with activities focused on Palm Sunday, the prayers of Gethsemane, the walk toward the cross with feet or hand painted to create a colorful paper cross. Sharing the story of the weeks leading up the big Easter Celebration is vital for our families who are new to the story of Jesus.
Jenna Reinke shared this lovely altar piece created at her Messy Church in Crowley, Texas. She writes that creating the altar decoration helped to build connections between their Messy Church and traditional ‘Sunday Church’ communities.
Another great idea of incorporating prayers into both Messy
Church and traditional church is illustrated by Heather Johnson, a pastor from
Minnesota. Check out these beautiful paper Lenten paraments created by written
prayers on strips of purple paper that are pictured below.
May you find ways to enter deeply into the season of prayer and preparation this Lent as you also live in the messy in-between of looking forward making detailed plans for your Easter Messy Church! We celebrate the joy of the resurrection by preparing ourselves and our Messy communities. I know that Easter is the largest Messy Church for many communities so prayers for patience and happy volunteers!
Be sure to share your stories of your Lent and Easter stories on our Facebook page, the team leaders group or better yet, send a story or a short video to our Messy Church USA Communications Team lead Robin Cannon from Ohio.
Messy blessings to you as you live in this Messy in-between time. Love and blessings, Roberta
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
Luke 6: 35 (NRSV)
February is known as the month of love. So, like others, I’ve been hard at work making kid’s Valentines, pink heart-shaped pancakes, writing my feelings in love notes, and various other pink and red related activities. When I look around, I feel so blessed to have so many people in my life that I get to show love to. Also, it’s so easy to show them love! Having people that are close to you means knowing exactly what makes that person happy. I’m delighted to see faces light up when I’m able to give those I’m close to something that makes their day. However, this month of love also brings another thought to mind. While it’s fantastic to show affection to those we see on a regular basis, God wants us to show love to everyone (including strangers and those we don’t particularly care for). The reality is, it seems like much more of a daunting task to come up with ways to please people we don’t know. It’s much more rewarding to stick with who and what we know. So just how important is “loving thy neighbor” and what is it God expects?
It’s not an easy task, but God calls us to love one another without expectations. But, what does this mean? When you send a gift, don’t send it expecting a “thank you” card. Do not help a friend move while keeping in the back of your mind that they will in turn “owe you” when it comes time for you to pack. Give generously to those in need without awaiting praise. Quite simply, give to all those around you, whether you know them or not, and do so without personal animosity building up when nothing is returned. This comes easy for some of us, and for others, it feels like a lot of work. We are busy with our own lives so trying to come up with ideas to make others feel loved can feel like a struggle. However, just like anything in life, if you want to build a habit so it becomes second nature, you have to have a routine and work it on a regular basis. Doing so for those who are already in your life can be easier than doing for those who aren’t. So how can we send some neighborly love to a complete stranger, not have it feel like a job, and still fulfill God’s wish?
One of the many popular and reoccurring craft tables we have at Messy Church is the “service table.” One of our invaluable volunteers works a table with arts and crafts dedicated to others. In the past this has included letters to community helpers (police, firemen, mail men, etc.), thank you cards to our service men and women, and making toys for the animals at the local shelters. This last Saturday we had a service table dedicated to Meals on Wheels. Messy attendees were given a card that was previously printed with the phrase “Remember…you are a beloved child of God.” They were then given watercolors and asked to paint the opposite side of the card. We were able to make 39 cards, all of which will be divided and sent with each given meal to surprise an unsuspecting recipient. Our congregation didn’t know the people receiving the cards, nor would they see the look of surprise when they were received. They’d also collect no appreciation from said receiver. Yet, they sat and worked with smiles on their faces to make the day of a total stranger.
So why’d they do it? Why did a selfless act for someone they didn’t know come easily without complaint? Well, quite simply put, because it was fun! Because we made it fun! We’ve already established that it’s more enjoyable to give to those we’re familiar with (because we know what to do) but the reality is, an unsuspected gift of love is always a blessing in someone’s life. So, make it fun for you too. If you enjoy painting, paint a picture on the outside of a bagged lunch and give it to someone that needs it. If you love to write, write a few words of inspiration on note cards that you can keep with you to hand out to random passersby. If you enjoy cooking, bake some goodies and bring it to the neighbor you’ve been meaning to say “hello” to. I promise the effort, no matter how small will not go unappreciated. Do not let the idea of giving love weigh you down. Because if all else fails, we can fulfill God’s wish if we simply roll up those sleeves, get messy, and get to giving!
A Blog Post by Kate Cross, Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator of Texas
I believe Jesus came to earth to walk among us, to be human, and to experience all the joys and pains of what it means to be human. By coming to Earth, Jesus experienced the bad and good things that will happen to us and those we love. All knowing, he still came to Earth to walk a mile in our sandals. To enter our homes, to be with us when our children are sick, when our loved ones die, and when we are fighting with our sister – and also when we are celebrating milestones in life with a little wine.
At Messy Church we show people God’s love when they come as they are, we need to see them as Jesus did – loved right now rather than loved for who they might be in the future. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of one another, it’s different though similar to sympathy – it’s not pity. It’s understanding where someone you know is coming from, seeing yourself in their shoes and showing up for them. It’s doing unto them what you would want if you were them. It’s showing kindness, it’s listening, and it’s making small gestures when someone is having a hard time or even just a time.
As I grow closer to the people I’ve met through Messy Church this rings true. So many people go through life surrounded by people, yet alone. Remembering things they told you were going on in their life the last month and following up – it makes us all feel a little less lonely. If they told you about it, it’s important to them. Checking in during the weeks between Messy Churches seems to mean so much to them. As best we can, do it in an organic way, free from ulterior motives. Don’t force yourself to say and do things that are unnatural for you, but take it a step further than saying nothing or the standard “if you need anything, just let me know” is being the body of Christ. We might not be able to heal their bodies but we can minister to their hearts and souls. We can offer prayer for rough times, but we must remember that we ourselves are how those prayers might be answered.
There’s also the times when we aren’t having a hard time, we’re just going through life. It’s true of everyone at Messy Church too. How can we start to befriend the new friends we meet in Messy Church and start to go through life together? It’s probably not that different from how you’ve met and grown with any of your other friends. It’s as Jesus did, allow them to enter our homes, go into their homes, take a walk or a coffee to chat, share some experiences, and to celebrate milestones in life with a little wine.
Kate Cross, Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator of Texas, Messy Church leader at Spring Branch Presbyterian, Houston, Texas
Blog post was partially inspired by the book There’s No Good Card For This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell and, of course, the life of Christ.
The Lord your God is in your midst…. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17 (CEB)
Ahhh…February has arrived…a month filled with hearts and love. How are you celebrating the season of love in your Messy Church this month? Lucy Moore, founder of Messy Church, encourages us to take a moment to notice where love is being shown in your Messy Church this month in the recent February Messy Church BRF newsletter:
Feel the love this month! While red hearts are everywhere for
Valentine’s Day, take a moment to look round your Messy Church and notice how
and where love is being shown. Thank God in the middle of the mess for those
small actions, words, touches, smiles, objects and moments of generosity.
And take a moment to feel God’s love for you in all the busyness, to be reaffirmed as lovely and lovable just as you are. You’re not loved because you’re so busy; you’re loved because you’re you, and as Zephaniah says, ‘He will rejoice over you with singing.’ Listen to that song of delight this month. (Lucy Moore)
I give thanks for the love that I have seen expressed in brand new Messy Churches who have shared their pictures on their Facebook feed. I give thanks for the questions I receive at the monthly ‘what is Messy Church’ webinar from people exploring a new way to share God’s love with their neighbors. I give thanks for the conversations I have with our great team of regional coordinators who are committed to support local churches to start and sustain Messy Churches in their region. I give thanks for Robin Cannon, our communications lead who spreads the love of Messy Church through social media. I give thanks that the Messy Church USA Board of Directors will meet in person over President’s day weekend to celebrate how God has led us this past year and discern how God is leading us into the future.
Where do you see God’s love being expressed in your Messy Church Planning team? In your Messy Church activities? In your Messy prayers? In your Messy Meal? We want to hear your stories and see your pictures. Share your story of love on our FB page. Love and Blessings, Roberta
Happy New Year! It’s that time, again. Time for new beginnings, getting life in order, and an official New Year’s resolution. My resolution is the same as it is most years…get in better shape! Most every year, I vow to eat better, run more, and reach a certain number on the scale by a certain set date. I know if I put everything else aside, not give into temptation, and workout like crazy, those few extra pounds will be gone in no time. The New Year starts fast and furious with clean eating and exercise and starts to peter out around the end of January. My eating returns to its normal mostly healthy (but could be better) self, and the running returns to two times a week. I stay this way for most of the year and start all over again the following January. It’s frustrating, to say the least, but a trip to Messy Church has me thinking that the change to my body actually starts in my head, and not in my kitchen.
Last Saturday we sat through a fun, interactive, Messy explanation of Epiphany (the manifestation of God to the world through His son, Jesus Christ). It was exciting to see my children realize that, despite the fact that the presents have all been opened, Christmas does not end on December 25. We learned about the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany and also learned some of the ways people celebrate Epiphany in other countries. Although it was interesting, I have to admit that my mind began to wander while sitting in that pew. Why don’t my kids know about Epiphany? Why aren’t we talking about the birth of Jesus and the significance of God’s gift to us after the lights come down and the tree is thrown out? We work vigorously through the holiday season drilling into them that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but the second the stockings come down, it’s back to life as usual. Don’t worry, God, we will see you again next December!
This isn’t to say we don’t bring up God at all. We pray as a family and we attend Messy Church…ahem…once a month. Sigh. Then it hits me. The reason my kids don’t know about Epiphany is because I approach my relationship with God, the same way I approach my resolutions. Fast and furious until I burn out. For us, Christmas is shopping, Messy Church, “don’t forget about Jesus”, a school craft, letters, “don’t forget about Jesus!”, nativity story, Christmas goodies, “don’t forget about Jesus!”, parties, caroling, and, oh yeah, did we mention Jesus? By the time Epiphany rolls around, I’ve made up my mind that my due diligence for my kids, when it comes to God, has already been met. Our once a month trip to Messy Church and nightly prayers will take care of the rest until the next holiday season.
All of this leaves me
wondering what would happen if I took a beat and just slowed down. What if my New Year’s resolution was not to
hit a certain number on the scale by a certain time but rather to get healthy
and stay that way for life. It would
require a change in my thought process.
It won’t be instant gratification but a life commitment. Now, what if I did the same thing with
God? Instead of working hard just once a
year to prove that my relationship with God is still on point, I make a
commitment to work on my relationship with Him daily and turn it into a life
goal for me and my family, and skip the fast and furious recap next year.
It won’t be easy, but most resolutions are put into place because there is a need for change somewhere in your life. And, yes, change is hard. But, your relationship with God doesn’t have to be. It’s fantastic to give back and be more Christ-like during the holidays but the amount of effort we put in during that month may not be sustainable year around. Take it slow. Look at the resolutions in your life, whatever they may be, as a marathon, not a race. If we take the time to nurture the relationship we have with God for the long haul, we can ditch the madness we create playing catch up, and instead enjoy a more realistic, viable, and more meaningful link to our beloved savior.
Several years ago, I found this print in the clearance section of my local Michaels’ craft store. I purchased two of them, and they both hung at the church where I was serving as pastor at the time. We had begun our local Messy Church several years earlier and this print spoke to our experience of starting a Messy Church…we made lots of mistakes, we were real with each other and we did it all in the name of Love. We discovered that starting and sustaining a Messy Church is a messy process yet everything always went more smoothly when we kept ourselves centered in God’s love, great things happened.
January is the month that my husband and I spend some time decluttering and organizing our home. (We began this yearly routine before we ever heard of Marie Kondo). This year, my husband found this print in the garage and brought it to my office. He suggested that we hang it in the hallway outside what is now the Messy Church USA office. When he showed it to me, there were papers scattered everywhere; I was preparing packages to mail, I had books stacked high to make some space for 10,000 newly printed Messy Church brochures and also 70 copies of the 2019 featured book for renewing members, Messy Togetherness by Martyn Payne; in other words, my office was a complete mess! So I laughed when I read the phrase that had originally drawn me to this print …We Do Messy!
I am a person who loves the beginning of the year. I love coordinating my calendars and writing down annual, quarterly and monthly goals. I get satisfaction from crossing off items on my daily to do list. However, this month, the task of ‘writing a Messy Church blog post’ has not gone according to plan! It is now past the middle of the month and there has not been any January blogs posted! My expectations for my work this January has not met the reality! So when I see that print each time I enter my office, all I can do is laugh and remember that in this work…We do Messy!
I wonder how your expectations for your local Messy Church has met your reality? I am reminded of our experience in our second year of offering Messy Church. In our first year, we had a steady growth of number of people attending our local Messy Church. However, in our second year, our attendance was down significantly. As a team we discussed our disappointment and wondered what we were doing ‘wrong’. One member of our team reminded us that earlier we had prayed that we would develop deeper relationships with our families. With our lower numbers each month, those relationships were developing as we had more time to have relaxing conversations. Since we were not so busy at our activity tables, or getting food ready, we were getting to know each other and sharing our faith in a more profound way. God was showing up in a big way and we had not been paying attention as we focused on the numbers.
I know that as leaders of Messy Church, there will be times when you will be disappointed that your plans and expectations do not meet the reality of your experience. Perhaps not as many people show up and you wonder if all the work in preparing for your Messy Church is worth it. Perhaps you run out of food because more people show up that what you expected. Perhaps a beloved volunteer gets ill or ‘burned out’ and no longer is able to host a activity table. Perhaps you hear the same question for the tenth time from a member of your church leadership, “when are the Messy Church families going to start attending ‘church’?” (Implying that the only ‘church’ that is ‘real church’ is the traditional Sunday morning worship). At those times, I hope that you will pause, remember to laugh and be attentive to how God is showing up over and over again in all of the messiness of Messy Church!
As you lead your Messy Churches throughout 2019, my prayer is that you will remember that Messy Church is a place where God shows up and our task is to pay attention. At Messy Church we are creating a welcoming and sacred space where people can join with each other in all of their marvelous ‘real’ lives. We come to Messy Church with as both broken and blessed people and as we share our lives, we are drawn closer to one another and closer to Christ. The Holy One is present in the midst of our messy relationships, our messy questions, our messy to do lists, our messy schedules and our messy lives. Celebrate the welcoming space you are creating at your Messy Church and pay attention to where God is showing up. Remember…We Do Messy!
“They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9
When I think about those wise ones who followed the star, I think about leadership. The best teachers are life-long learners. The best leaders know how to follow others. I always find it interesting that when we are most purely ourselves, living out of our gifts, we end up modeling for others and becoming leaders without even trying. This is the case with those who followed the star. Was it curiosity or pure scholarship that brought the Magi on such a journey?
We do not know a lot about these astrologers. We only know that they were doing their thing – observing the stars. Little did they know, they would have their own followers, thousands of years later. We who hear and celebrate the story of Jesus’ birth, follow the wise men on their journey, first to King Herod, and finally to the home where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying. By joining them on their journey, we are reminded once again where God is found, among the outsiders rather than the elite.
Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.
These wise men were also on a journey of hospitality. On their way to meet Jesus, bringing gifts, and building new relationships are at the heart of hospitality. With their presence, they welcomed Jesus to earth. Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.
We can learn a lot from these wise men on their journey. In a way, it was a journey of proclamation, to show homage to the king of the Jews. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the historical reference to the word homage is in reference to making a public acknowledgement of allegiance to one’s Lord. By showing homage, these travelers publically claimed the king of the Jews their personal lord. How do we translate this homage to our celebration of Christ’s birth every year? Do we use this holy-day as an opportunity to publically name Jesus our Lord and Savior, or do we spend too much time focusing on the gifts and minutiae of creating a “perfect” day?
As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us.
I see leadership, homage, and hospitality celebrated in the organization of Messy Church. As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us. We are all both learners and teachers. Everyone has an opportunity to share in a piece of the story, share their perspectives, life experiences, and gifts. We share a meal together, growing in our relationships as well as our faith. We join the journey together; following the promises of God like the wise ones followed the star, to the place where it all comes together, in Jesus the Christ. God with us, Emmanuel.
Casey Cross serves on the Messy Church USA Board of Directors. She is the Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID, where she has led the start of the first Messy Church in Idaho.
“The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world” ~John 1: 9 (CEB)
Are you all prepared to celebrate the light of Jesus Christ that has come for all people? I must be honest that I am not ready… there are still many items on my list and I am at the point now that I know that not all of those items will get crossed off. I shared with my step-mother this morning that although I am not ready for Christmas, the day will come whether I am ready or not. I know from experience that Christmas will be a day of celebration whether or not I get all the items on my list completed.
My friends, it is GOOD NEWS that Christmas comes to us whether we are prepared or not! As John’s gospel proclaims, we can be confident that Jesus the Christ will come to us daily bringing light, love and light to all.
I am reminded of the poem by Howard Thurman and accompanying picture that has been circulating around the internet this December.
I will light candles this Christmas, Candles of joy despite all the sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present, Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all year long. ~ Howard Thurman
The Christmas season is difficult for many people. I live in the Pacific Northwest and as we approach the longest night of the year, I yearn for the return of the light. My mother died on the day after Christmas many years ago and even today, I still think of that bittersweet time of being together as a family while saying our goodbyes to our mother. God was present with us around the Christmas tree as well as around her bed as we sang Christmas carols to her.
My prayer my friends, is that you will light candles of joy, hope, courage, peace, grace and love not only during this season of Christmas and Epiphany but for the whole year long. I am so grateful for the ministry of Messy Church that invites people to bring all of their joys and sadness, doubt and celebrations, young and old to the light of Christ.
Merry Christmas and Celebrate
Roberta Egli, Executive Director, Messy Church USA
The beginning of December is usually a reminder for me to kick it into high gear and start Christmas shopping, dig up our Elf on the Shelf (Lord only knows where I stuck him from the previous year), and remember to give each of our boys their advent gift for those first 25 days while desperately trying to reiterate what the advent period is actually about. In the dictionary, advent is described as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For my kids, advent means presents. We work hard to remind them that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but, in their defense, gift giving is a part of Christmas. We give gifts to family, the Wise Men brought gifts for Jesus, and, of course, His birth, continues to stand as the greatest gift God has ever given to us. See? Gifts everywhere!
All the obsession over giving and receiving gifts got me thinking about the gifts we give at Messy Church. I’d like to think that we, as a Messy Church team, give gifts to our congregation every month. They may not be the literal gifts wrapped in a bow, but gifts that have a deeper meaning. The gift of a place to feel safe, connected, understood, loved, and supported. The gift of our members making a connection with a particular story, song, or activity. The gift of our children finding an indisputable understanding of what God’s love means, in their life, as they grow. What I didn’t think about is the gifts we receive from the attendees, as well. That’s why, going into our event on the first Saturday of the month, I never expected the gift I’d come away with.
I walked into our Messy Advent event to see the beautiful face of my friend, Mel. I was grateful to have met her through the United Methodist preschool where her daughter and my son attended. Over the years, she had expressed wanting to come to Messy Church, but life sometimes gets in the way. I was over the moon to see what she thought of her first Messy gathering. Of course it was a whirlwind of a night and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the end of the evening. However, the next morning I woke to one of the most beautiful and meaningful texts I had ever received. The words she used to describe the feeling she got from attending Messy Church brought tears to my eyes. I immediately asked if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously obliged.
Here are the unedited, kind words from my good friend, Mel:
Me: Tell me a little about yourself.
Mel: I’ve been a resident of Huntington Beach since 2000. I’m a single parent (didn’t start off that way, but life got “messy”) to one precious six year old girl.
Me: How did you hear about Messy Church?
Mel: We attended CUMC preschool and heard about it from friends. We’ve always been interested in going but hadn’t been able to schedule it until now.
Me: With many options for worship around here, what made you take a chance on Messy Church?
Mel: We knew a few people that were already attending and had heard good things. It kept coming up over the past few months from others who have attended and we realized we shouldn’t ignore it any longer. And so, we showed up!
Me: What was the theme of the Messy Church you attended?
Mel: We were at the December event which was all centered around Christmas and the birth of Jesus.
Me: What was the vibe upon entrance? What did you notice?
Mel: We were greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomed us and gave us a brown paper bag personalized in black sharpie.
Me: Anything that made you uncomfortable?
Mel: Nope. Everyone was nice.
Me: What was the most memorable moment for you?
Mel: Two things: Our time in the chapel and especially singing together. I loved the conversations I had with my daughter during the activities. She’s maturing in her faith.
Me: Was there anything missing? Something you wished you had more of?
Mel: Only because you are asking but perhaps a place to safely put your painted crafts while they are drying. I’m pretty sure we got blue paint on the wall. Sorry!
Me: What made Messy Church different than traditional church for you?
Mel: Everything about Messy Church is different than traditional church. I love that I never put my kid in some room and then went off to make small talk with other adults and their spouses. Just my daughter and I are my family. We’re not a traditional family but we are one. It was nice that we could stay together. Doing the crafts and activities gave us a chance to talk without distractions. I found myself asking her questions and explaining things to her in simple terms. Each activity was charming and offered a chance to talk about something different. There was so much to do and I was impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. It looked like a labor of love.
Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”
It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.
Mel: (cont) There’s also something sweet about sharing a meal with families. That was one of the first meals I can remember in a long time that I sat down the entire time with my child. At home during meals, I’m up every few minutes, getting and cleaning things (and high fives to the genius who recognizes ranch is a necessity with pizza!). It was a very sweet touch to have table tents with conversation starters.
I appreciate that it took a lot of coordination and manpower to pull off this event. I was also moved by its simplicity. There were no “smoke and mirrors,” just love and consideration. It could have taken place in any of the past five decades. I was moved to be one of the many voices, singing to God, surrounded by candles, led by a single guitar. The message was short and sweet (the most powerful ideas usually are). Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”
It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.
Me: Do you think you’ll attend Messy Church again?
Mel: I’ll 100% be returning. My daughter definitely wants to return. She loved it and I’ve already invited others!
Merry Christmas from our Messy family to yours!
Lindsey Goodyear blogs monthly for Messy Church USA. She is a Messy Church mom and leader at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, California. You can reach her at email@example.com
Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID and member of the Messy Church USA Board of Directors
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1: 5
I’ve been finding myself taking a lot of night walks lately. Many people would think that’s crazy, especially with the weather in Idaho as cold as it’s been. I will admit, by the time I get to the end of my walk I am really looking forward to entering my warm house. But there is a bit of magic that happens on these night walks, a quickening in my spirit. When I look up at the clear, dark sky and let my eyes adjust, I realize things aren’t as dark as I initially thought. In fact, the stars seem to shine clearer and brighter than usual.
Maybe that’s the key? Doing something that isn’t just, “the usual.” When we put ourselves out there, sometimes even literally out there taking a night walk, we see things from a different perspective. When we try something that others would call unusual, we connect with ourselves in a new way, there is a quickening in our spirit that makes us feel more alive.
Darkness has a way of closing in on us, making us feel like darkness is all there is. It can be suffocating, scary, and empty. Darkness can feel big and all encompassing. Yet, there is hope in the stars. When I’m in an especially dark place in my walk all I need to do is look up. If I see even just one star, I am reminded where the true power lies. The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light. Despite distance and the passage of time, this little light meets me where I stand. This little light is all I need to find my way through the darkness and to know I’m not alone.
This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light.
So, maybe this is the key? I am constantly amazed by the wondrous gifts of God’s grace that surround us, especially in those things that seem most mundane in our daily lives. This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.
In order for transformation, both of these keys are needed. We need to put ourselves out there so that we can see what God is doing in the most simple of things. In these intersecting moments, we meet God in a new way and we are changed. It can feel like such a miracle that we cannot help but share it with others.
This is what I see when families try Messy Church for the first time. They hesitantly walk in, unsure of what to expect from this new thing, uncomfortable. By the end of our celebration time together, they are completely different people. Alive! Awake! Connected to the stories of God’s love for us in a real, tangible way. We move to our meal together, eating casseroles, sitting next to our new family members, and expectantly looking ahead to our next gathering together.
Like the stars, we can live as points of light in the darkness, shining, as a reminder that the darkness has not, does not, and will not overcome. God with us, Emmanuel.
Messy Church around the world! We are on this messy path with great friends from all around the globe! Read part 3 of Roberta's reflections from the Messy Church International Conference last month.ow.ly/zTN950uCjl8pic.twitter.com/9tq3L0hVVT
Messy Church USA is a newly formed nonprofit 501c3 corporation. Messy Church USA has been formed to provide an organizational structure to support the health, growth and sustainability of local Messy Churches in the USA. In addition, Messy Church USA will assist individual Messy Churches to become an integrated part of the larger national and global network of Messy Churches. Read more.