I recall one Advent some years ago here when we collected a long list of names from the congregation. We started with our own home-bound, care-centered, widows and widowers and then expanded it by asking members to give us names of others to whom we could send personalized Christmas greetings. We also received names from folks in the community and came up with hundreds of names and addresses that we compiled on sheets of paper and then cut into individual listings. We put large baskets of these names, each person named multiple times, in the narthex and asked the congregation to pick out a name and send a note or a card wishing Merry Christmas to someone they did not know.
I will always remember one call that came from a woman who lived a long distance away. I learned that she had received cards handmade by children, some family Christmas photos and Christmas letters, a few store-bought cards: all from people she did not know. I learned that she was very much alone and that, in fact, these were the only Christmas greetings she received. She was very confused why we had picked her and what this was all about. I had no idea who submitted her name or what the connection might have been: she knew no one who lived out here. When I explained the project, she listened. And then, she went on to say that she had arranged all the cards together so she could see them from her favorite chair. She said she had read each one several times, studied the photos, tried to picture the people who sent them. More than her curiosity, her delight at what these cards and notes had brought her led her to track down Mount Calvary in Excelsior and make her call.
Our theme through most of May (and the end of April), our Easter season theme, is “A Time to Embrace.” The visual for our theme looks like a postcard from some exotic locale and we have in fact turned it into postcards that we will be making available throughout Easter. At times, we will have specific requests to make of you as to whom you might send one of these cards, and at others we will simply ask you to think of those you could bless by a card “embracing” them with thanks, well wishes, prayers, forgiveness, or whatever you choose. The Bible verse on the address and note side of the card will read “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts; written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:2)
As Ecclesiastes 3:5 reads, “There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” In these polarized, divisive and angry days, perhaps a first step towards being community is embracing our sisters and brothers. Making connections where there have been disruptions. Seeking healing where relations are broken. Offering prayers and thoughts into another person’s isolation or loneliness. Such has always been a key message of Jesus and as I say frequently, our task is to stay on message and not be conformed by the spirit loose in the world. Find a way, send a note, make an overture, swallow a pride, extend a hand or a hearty thank you, and embrace one another with the love of Christ.