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God's Hand in the Midst of Chaos

Greetings Beloved Church Family!

I am traveling back to North Carolina after a vacation filled with adventures and some deeply restful family time. I traveled with my mother to Italy to visit my younger sister, brother in law, and two nieces, then we all took a long weekend in Rome over Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, a few weeks before our trip, my mother injured her knee, so our weekend included finding creative ways to move her across Rome’s cobblestone streets in a wheelchair. Rome is a historic and beautiful city, but it is not known for its wheelchair accessibility. One of our days in Rome, my mother and I went to the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel, filled Michelagelo’s world famous frescos.

The only wheelchair friendly path to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is to take the prescribed route backwards. This was surprisingly difficult and chaotic. There I was pushing my mother through packed out halls, against the current of the crowd, trying desperately not to maim some stranger’s ankle with the wheel chair! The venture was a challenge as my mother and I hunted for signs for lifts, waited for security workers to push the crowds to the side so we can get through doorways, waited for stair lifts and yelled, “Scuzzi! Scuzzi!” to tourists of from all around the world.

Finally we came to the long narrow hallway that was the exit path for those leaving the Sistine Chapel. A security worker called his colleague on the radio and they blocked the steady moving crowd so my mother and I could travel down the long empty hall into the back of the chapel, filled to the brim with tourists and pilgrims all wanting to catch a glimpse of the beauty and genius of Michelangelo.

Once my mother and I found a spot, we spent the next several minutes with our heads craned, totally enthralled in the paintings of the room meant to portray the story of God love and humanity’s salvation in Jesus. They are so encompassing that it envelopes you into the walls, it’s difficult to not feel a part of the story.

There, despite all the crowds, all the chaos and challenges it took to get there, I felt a stillness within me, especially as I looked upon the famous spot in the top center of the chapel where God and Adam reach toward each other. I was taken by how God’s hand extends out with more energy than Adam’s. In Christ, God has taken the initiative to save the world. I needed the reminder that God reaches for me.

I was also taken by how small the space was between God and Adam’s fingers. The Adam and God portion of the Sistine Chapel is smaller than I anticipated, and the space between God and Adam’s fingers is even smaller. There is beauty in precisely how small the space is. God is truly closer than we could ever imagine.

I have been pondering this little adventure with my mom and how we had to push through the chaos, how we had go against the grain to catch a glimpse of a sacred work of art, to feel ourselves as a part of the story Michelangelo was communicating.

It reminds me of our Advent journey. Our calendars are packed out like those Vatican hallways, our culture of consumerism pushes against us like a strong current, we have to navigate the chaos of holiday expectations and year end pressures at work.

Advent is meant to be an invitation for Christians, through our shared worship and devotion, to push past the chaos together. Advent is an invitation for each of us to find that peaceful moment, for our spirits to catch a glimpse of the sacred truth that God is with us, to help each other along with way when needed. The songs, the stories, the prayers, the candles, and the worship of Advent is meant to paint a picture for us, to remind us that we are a part of a grand story, the story of Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

This is my prayer for you this Advent, that you might push past the chaos and find yourself amazed by the closeness between you and God, that you might be enveloped by the love of Christ. The chaos and crowds are not our story, our story is painted by birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

A prayer: Come Holy Spirit, push us past the chaos of this season and into the peace of knowing that God is with us. Amen.

With love and gratitude,

Pastor Nikki Raye

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