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December 21, 2008
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Pastor Brad Davick
Humanness of a Moment
Grace and peace to you this morning.
When my Grandpa Davick was living, he, my dad and I had this running joke between the three of us. We considered one another to be ‘Renaissance Men’; three generations of Davicks who enjoyed and appreciated the finer things in life, three who were well versed in the arts, sciences and humanities.
My wife, Pastor Caroline, didn’t know my Grandpa; ask her if my Dad and I are ‘Renaissance Men’ she’ll tell you that my Dad is, but me… not so much. The running joke that we have goes something like this: “When I first met Brad, he had a long pony-tail, wore beat up old boots, drove a beat up old pickup truck and swore he’d never own a mini-van, and when we’d go out to eat his beverage order was always, ‘I’ll have a MGD and a shot of Jack straight up. NOW, he has nice hair, wears Birkenstocks sandals and Earth shoe clogs, drives and LOVEs his mini-van, and knows the difference between a cabernet and a shiraz… his training is almost complete.”
This running joke is true! Since meeting Caroline, I’ve gained a more substantial appreciation for the finer things in life, especially art. Together, we’ve walked the galleries of some of the world’s greatest museum, viewed exhibits of Manet and Monet, Rembrandt and Renior, Picasso and Vasquez. We even have a “collection” of sorts… two works from Watanabe Sadao; The Last Supper and The Crucifixion. The Last Supper hangs over the dining room table in our dining room, and The Crucifixion, is temporarily in our den.
Pastor Caroline and I both appreciate the works of Watanabe because of stories they tell. The
subject matter of Watanabe’s prints is exclusively the gospel rendered in the mingei (folk art)
approach. Influenced by Buddhist figure prints, Watanabe placed biblical subjects in a Japanese
context. In The Last Supper
(1981) Watanabe depicts the disciples in kimono. On the table are
bottles of sake and sushi.
Watanabe once remarked that he preferred that his prints hang in the ordinary places of life: “I would most like to see them [his prints] hanging where people ordinarily gather, because Jesus
brought the gospel for the people”. Such is the mingei philosophy of art for the people and by the
The gospel reading this morning is the story of Mary visiting her relative, Elizabeth. This story is expressed in the image on the front of your worship booklet. It’s another work by Watanabe, entitled, Mary and Elizabeth. As you can see, it’s done in Watanabe’s signature mingei style. Notice how Mary and Elizabeth touch each other's growing womb, as they kneel down to each other. Flowers and a bird form a wreath around the two figures, adding a cheerful touch of natural life uniting them during this eventful meeting.
As is typical of Watanabe’s works, this image is more representative than realistic, as is common in 20th Century art.
None the less, the artist captures the humanness of the moment.
Knowing how comforting it is to share life’s ups and downs
with someone who understands, I imagine Mary and Elizabeth feeling an enormous sense of comfort as they share this intimate moment.
When Pastor Caroline and I arrived in Beijing, we met three of the other five families, all whose infant daughters were from the same orphanage as Ellie’s. Edson and Keri had their nine-year old twin daughters with them; Wendy and Brian, Eric and Jacinda , like Caroline and me, were first time parents. In the two days we were together prior to traveling to Nanchung to get our daughters, we learned a lot about each other:
- Edson is an attorney who, as one of the twins said, “he just made PARTNER before we left for China.”
- Kerri is an amateur sponsored triathlete whose best friend is Brandi Chastain, of the USA Women’s World Cup Soccer team
- Brian’s mother is the Northeast Regional Coordinator for Children’s Hope International, our groups adoption agency, whose adopted 6 children from China
In those two days, we heard one another’s adoption story, shared deeply personal matters, and calmed each others anxieties. There were talks about hopes and dreams for our little girls; laughter and tears came easily. We connected at an intimate level as we were sharing an experience that included a lot of unknowns. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we all shared the common experience of a long three year wait, the roller coaster of emotions during that long wait, and the nervous excitement that our worlds were going to change dramatically on the Sunday afternoon of June 1. There was a high level of trust in and with one another, and a calming effect of being in each other’s presence with our new daughters.
I love this picture. It shows my wife, Caroline and fellow new mom, Jacinda, holding Ellie and Emmaline, just moments after each had been handed to them by the orphanage moms. It isn’t a particularly great picture by professional photographers standards; it’s backlight a bit too much, not in great focus, and most of Emmaline is cut-off.
Even so, I believe it captures the humanness of the moment. Two new moms sharing an intimate moment; their faces awash with an overwhelming joy and a surreal amazement of holding their long-awaited daughters for the first time. Two new moms who found comfort and understanding being in one another’s presence in the face of a significant life event… a life event filled with unexpected ups and downs… a life event filled with unimagined hopes and dreams.
Although we will likely never see angels and hear prophecies like the two women we hear about and see an image of today, much of life is fraught with uncertainties and unknowns. As Mary and Elizabeth remind us, it is often comforting to share these experiences. That is one benefit of a community of faith; we tend to walk together through life’s memorable moments.
Especially at this time of year, these moments… whether painful or joyful… can be particularly stressful. Because the stress is often more intense for people without a regular faith life and without the regular support of a community of faith, the church makes every effort to be open, welcoming and hospitable. Our hope and prayer is that anyone who comes here-or comes in contact with anyone of us… will feel as if they have “visited Elizabeth” this Christmas. Our hope and prayer is that they have found somewhere to share their sorrows and joys and someone with whom to face the unknowns and the uncertainty that life always brings.
Let us pray.
Both our story and the story of Mary and Elizabeth are rather significant life events. Yet, even daily life has unknowns. Call from the Y that the hallway ceiling had caved in. Max getting out. Some among us wonder if their work is secure, and if so, for how long. Will I pass the test? Will I find meaningful work? Those are the “not so good” unknowns, but unknowns can be positive, too. Dad Davick calling at 7:30 to say he was on his way.
How much sweeter are these experiences when we can share them with someone. How much more comforting is sharing sorrow rather than trying to go it alone.
We are now three days before Christmas. For many people, this is the most stressful time of the year. Statistically, depression increases… sometimes because people they have shared things with are gone.
The church makes every effort to be hospitable at this time of year because these feelings are often more intense for people without a regular faith life and without the regular support of a community of faith. Our hope and prayer is that anyone who comes here—or comes in contact with any one of us--will feel as if they have “visited Elizabeth” this Christmas… that they have found somewhere to share their joys and sorrows… someone with whom to face the unknowns and the uncertainty that life always brings.