Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love

posted Dec 20, 2019, 6:52 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of hope, peace, and joy be with you!

Allow me to share something that happened recently. I rather like to view it as a Christmas tale of love. It’s called “The Late Night Rescue of Coventry House Chloe.”

I told myself that I was going to be strong and not cry. But, with Chloe being missing now for a while and it getting dark, every time I thought of Chloe lost out there somewhere — alone, cold, and scared — I began to sob. Exhausted from the day’s emotional stress, I couldn’t take the looking and waiting anymore and decided to go to bed early. Before I did, though, I stood in front of the photos of my two grandmothers and said, “You are my saints, my great cloud of witnesses. I need you to help me find my cat. Please bring her back to me. Guide her home.”

As I slept, I had a dream. I was on an airplane traveling home from a family function, although the plane looked more like a theatre. I looked up and my Grandmother Sheffield was standing at my shoulder. She said, “You left these behind and I wanted to bring them to you.” She gave me two articles of clothing. (Note: I had my sweater and Chloe’s favorite blanket outside hoping to lure her back home with scent). Immediately, I woke up. It was 2:30 AM. No matter. I knew I had to go outside and look for Chloe. I put on a fluffy bathrobe and my slippers, took my cell phone to use it as a flashlight and went out the front door. Walking around the house, checking in the garage for the fifth time, looking under bushes and brush piles, I called and called to Chloe. No sign of her. After a while, I went inside and looked out the window, hoping to see her. Still nothing. I thought I caught a glimpse of something by the garage, so out I went again. But, it wasn’t a cat. It was some of my deer who had come up to eat corn. I could smell them before I saw them, as this time of year the deer have a very pungent, musky odor.

Once again, I started circling the house, calling Chloe! Chloe! My hunt had me end up in the backyard, and I decided to stand still and wait. Finally, I breathed deeply, called out her name and then listened. Quietly, out of the cold darkness came a weak meow. I called again, Chloe? Another meow. Turning on my flashlight, I moved in the direction of the meowing, saying her name over and over. The light caught two little glowing eyes behind a tree, just on the edge of the woods behind the Education Building. I approached her cautiously, not wanting her to run away, and scooped her up into my arms, holding her tightly. And thus we walked, back into the warmth of home. As we did so, I breathed a prayer, “Thank you, Grandma. Thank you, God.”

The Christmas story of love coming all the way down from heaven is so familiar that we may miss opportunities to see it played out in our day-to-day routine. Chloe’s return during the season of Advent was my reminder that with the birth of Jesus, God took despair and turned it into hope; struggle became peace; and grief gave way to joy. And it was always God’s unconditional love that encircled the people as they moved from darkness into light. As the prophet Isaiah says, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined . . . For a child has been born for us, a son given to us . . . A child — born of humble origins in a dusty stable — is God’s gift to the world. God took the despair, struggle, and grief of God’s people, held it in love, and wrapped it up in flesh to be called Immanuel - God with us. And because God is with us, we are given salvation; we are called beloved child; we live in amazing grace every day.

Come this Sunday to church at 10:30 AM to celebrate God’s love wrapped in flesh. Our children and youth will delight our hearts with the Christmas pageant No Silent Night in Bethlehem. After worship, we will have our annual Christmas party in Coventry House, with Santa and his elves making an appearance!

And then, on Christmas Eve at 6 PM, I invite you to come back to church (and bring a friend!) as we bear witness to the light of Christ coming into the world with our Traditional and Family Friendly Candlelight worship. We’ll have musical selections from an Antique Music Box, joyous songs from the Joyful Noise Adult Choir, New Jericho Choir, and ringing from the Handbell Choir. There will be a Children’s Story Time called Christmas in the Barn. And I will share a brief reflection called Follow the Star.

Also, in gratitude for the gift of the Christ Child, the Consistory and I invite you to please consider giving a tax-deductible Christmas offering for the ministries of MRC. As I’ve said many times before, you are the hands and feet of God’s love in our community. It’s because of your faithful gifts of time, talents, and treasure that we can celebrate the inclusive and welcoming love of God every Sunday, and throughout the week with our ministry partners. Let me add that you have been very generous this year in your giving to the General Fund, the Deacons’ Fund, and our 24 for 24 Capital Campaign. We are so grateful, and humbly ask for your continued generosity this Christmas and into the New Year.

Truly, I love serving as your pastor. In a world where hope is sometimes hard to see and joy can be elusive, you give me hope and joy each and every day. I’m wishing you abundant blessings for a happy and beautiful Christmas.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish