Life. Death. Birth.
Two years ago I went on a forestry tour. I hated it. It was cold, damp, and painfully forgettable – until the end.
The forester came out of his professorial role and said, “The reason why forests show longevity is because they produce that which is needed to survive. The dying leaves sustain the trees.”
He didn’t say it, but it’s as if I heard him say, “Death is a natural a part of the cycle that springs forth life. If your church wants to thrive, it must hold in harmony life, death, and birth. Without this cycle, the ecosystem dies.”
Within my church community, we’ve experienced a lot of death. Each funeral changed us, forever. In light of these deaths (and the good word from the forester), we prepare a Blue Christmas Service each year to focus on the fallen trees of our church community, to name and grieve our pain together.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we’re pausing to honor the lives of the people who won’t be joining us for Christmas dinner. We’re naming our frustrations (and regrets) to God.
None of us (at least in my church) have enough holiday cheer to mask life’s pain. We’re all grieving something while trying to find room for the joy of Jesus. So instead of faking it, we’re taking time to name and offer our pain to God.
This single act of worship brings together the same tension found in the forest. It allows us to grow closer to our Creator by honoring the passing of what was while still anticipating the birth of something new.
So, this Christmas, I hope everyone finds the time and space to experience life’s cycles. Deaths occur. Leaves fall. Traditions die. Naming these deaths matters. And in the midst of doing so, something new is born.
If our churches can be more like forests (community of believers) sharing leaves (burdens, talents, dreams, hopes, money, regrets, gifts, energy, time, and loves), then we’ll learn to appreciate, even more, just how game-changing the Incarnation is. We’ll understand the magnitude of Jesus stepping into our dying and decaying world offering the newness of life. We’ll have the eyes to see that through birth; we’re gifted the joy that makes our souls complete.
Life. Death. Birth.