“Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming, from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as saints of old have sung.
It came a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.”
I have always loved this mournful carol of promise for its naming of how God fashions beauty and hope in the most unlikely of places. The rose pictured here has been on my phone’s opening screen for most of this past year. It carries special meaning for me as it was part of funeral spray for one of my greatest teachers. His name was Aidan Carter. Aidan was the only person in my ministry for whom I was present the day of his birth, celebrated his baptism, journeyed with him in life and in confirmation and then was with him and his family on the day of his death.
All year long, in this season of transition in my life, I have been reminded of God’s remarkable capacity to bring light and life out of the place of darkness and loss. Though Aidan was blinded by a tumor on his optic nerve caused by neurofibromatosis, he possessed twenty-twenty vision of the heart. He could see the possibilities which love could fashion in even the most challenging of circumstances. He taught me about the power of God to fashion an ever-new creation in the least likely of places and with the most unlikely people.
Maybe you have known someone like this in your own life who, despite the apparent limitations of their situation, have been touched by a spirit larger than that which can be seen with the eye. And empowered by that Spirit have a capacity to grow joy and hope where it seems that nothing should be able to flourish.
These days, there is much around us that seems to crush the possibility of a rose blooming in winter. Children are still separated from their parents, those fleeing terror are still being met by walls of resistance, teenagers are still giving birth in a season of their lives that is unexpected and not ideal. There is much uncertainty for many in ways that are too numerous to name. But it is, of course, into this very kind of brokenness and fear that God pivoted the universe toward hope with the birth of Jesus. There is nothing of the protection of royalty, just an entrance into the vulnerable place. It is a place Jesus occupied throughout his whole life mission. But he did not occupy it alone. For this is the place where God fashioned and continues to fashion a blossoming in love that cannot be defeated.
So, we are given the gift of these Advent days, these hours of eager waiting. And we are given the gift of Christmas to celebrate God’s inbreaking power to shift everything we think we know. May this unfolding narrative of God’s inbreaking find its way into the deepest place of your heart and your life. May it empower the faith communities of which you are a part. May it be the energy that binds us congregation to congregation and ministry to ministry throughout the Conference and into the wider world. And may this vision where all may flourish find a heart song that goes something like this, “Gloria, in excelsis, Deo”! Yes! Yes! Yes! The rose blooms in winter! Let us behold it together! I give thanks to God for you and pray God’s blessings on the ministry to which we are called together!
May Advent blessings and Christmas Joy be yours! Your fellow servant, Dave.