Pastoral Ponderings January 2015

Dear God,

          Christmas is over.  Thank you.  I don’t mean to thank you that it’s over…I want to thank you for Christmas itself. 

     I have to admit that there are times when I sort of minimize Christmas…knowing that it is your entrance into the world in a real person, Jesus, but not thinking about all that comes after it.  I sort of forget that in accepting Christmas I am opening the door to the choice to accept the entire message of our faith. 

     Christmas begins with a virgin birth…something many people/religions don’t accept.  However, the virgin birth is pretty easy to accept if you understand the complexities of creation. 

     First of all, Christmas begins with the foundational belief that you created all that exists and that you chose to walk on Earth.  This is a bit mind-boggling.  The philosopher Descartes made the famous acclamation: “I think, therefore I am.”  Sounds a bit basic, but Descarte postulated that a rock, water, or tree doesn’t think so it can’t appreciate that it exists (although I’ve know a couple of guys whom I suspected had rocks for brains who somehow had a bit of self-awareness).

     Second, I know I exist, but where do I come from?  That’s the faith part.  I choose to believe life is not an accident.  I don’t believe in the “Big Bang Theory” (although I like the show) and I don’t know how you came to be…my mind is too small   But I know I exist and that I didn’t create myself.

     Third, I think about how big creation might be.  I looked to the all-knowing internet to learn more about the world around me.  Here’s some of what I found (or at least what I could understand!).

     A solar system is a collection of planets which rotate around the star which is largest gravitational force in the region…in our case, the Sun.  Our solar system is a part of a galaxy…the universe as we know it.  We live in the Milky Way galaxy made up of many stars.  Scientists have shown that every star like our Sun is capable of sustaining a collection of planets which rotate around it.  There are an estimated 300 billion stars in our galaxy.  If even 10% of those stars had planets that orbit them as Earth does around our Sun there are an estimated 30 billion planets just in our solar system alone.  

     The closet planet to us is Venus.  All planets make elliptical orbits around the sun, so at any given time Venus is between 38 million to 261 million miles from Earth.  You and I could go visit, but sun screen is advised because the average temperature is 860 degrees Fahrenheit.  That leaves us heading in the opposite direction to Mars which has been reported (by the Viking exploration vehicles) to be between 7 degrees to -172 degrees.  The average temperature is -32 degrees.  Depending again on the elliptical orbits Mars is only between 33-250 million miles from Earth.  The furthest planet in our solar system which orbits the Sun is Pluto at an estimate 2.7-billion miles from home.  Pack an extra pair of socks for that trip.

     So here are the two somehows that I think of after listing all of this, God.  Somehow, even after all of this information which any rock-head like me can find, there are many people who think we are the only self-aware Beings in the universe.  And somehow people have a difficult time believing that a baby could be born from a virgin.  These same people are like me…folks who can’t find the milk in the ‘fridge because it’s behind the butter.  Or in lay-terms, they can’t see the forest for the trees.

     So I come back to Christmas, Lord.  I believe the Christian story because I have faith.  But it’s bigger than that.  I believe that the One who created the estimated 300 billion stars cares enough about what was created to walk on any of the planets as an intimate act of love.  Does the One who created the universe have to be born as I was or can’t choose to be born of a virgin to make a point about who is more powerful than me?  Doubtful.  But it’s my faith that in this birth and in our presence in Jesus that you know what I know and feel what I feel.  Therefore, it is with great awe and humility that I choose to accept the Christmas story as it was given to me.  Thank you for being so human that I can understand the story.

     As always, thanks for listening.  I love you.  

                                                                                    Dan