I was just opening the curtains like usual when I heard a thump. I looked down to see a half-dead plant in the middle of a spread of potting soil on the carpet.
Laying there was a small succulent that Elizabeth spotted at the farmers market weeks earlier. Those fat, juicy, gray-green leaves, packed together like sausages in a can, brought a squeal of delight from her. Running up to the tray of them, she grabbed handfuls of those leaves, much to her parents’ dismay. We came home from the market having spent $5 more than we wanted, and with one more half-denuded succulent than we would have liked.
The injured plant ended up on the sunniest windowsill in our house, from whence it plummeted to the carpet. The impact left it with maybe a quarter of the leaves it originally had. Laying there on the floor, it looked like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of houseplants. I was tempted to just throw it away. But for some reason—unknown to me—I kept it. I set it in a safer place and mostly forgot about that frustrating little plant.
I discovered it again just yesterday. In a moment of quiet, I looked down at the shelf and noticed that the half-dead, mostly leafless plant is now alive and leafy, literally covered with new life. Half a dozen little sprouts are standing up from its naked branches, and there are countless more buds poking out. It’s not pretty yet—it’s still much to lopsided and weird-looking to be attractive—but it’s definitely alive. Thriving, even.
The saga of that little plant feels like a metaphor for 2020. A year begun with hope and joy that all too quickly crashed into an string of events unlike any other in recent memory: a pandemic, protests, divisive politics, and another pandemic spike to close it out. Our community life has been disrupted in unimaginable ways. This year tossed us off the windowsill and onto the carpet. Hard.
And yet, we’re still going. Not just limping along either, but finding new ways to support one another and to put our faith into practice. We can’t gather in person yet, but we’re still working to stand up for God’s justice in the world. To paraphrase Second Timothy, St. Luke’s doesn’t have a spirit of fear and timidity, we have received from God a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Having been knocked back by forces beyond our control, our community is sprouting with the love, power, and life of God.
This story, the story of pushing through strife—the story of life emerging from death—this is what we’re all about. It’s what we celebrate every Sunday. It’s what we celebrate especially at Christmas: In the most hopeless situation, at the darkest hour, light shines and hope comes. Life springs up from seeming death.
When it seems like all is lost, God comes to us. God stays with us. God promises that we will never be alone. Thanks be to God!