The Village

As the Christmas season approaches, Currier and Ives scenes of early American holidays begin to appear on cards and storefront displays, the songs of Christmas begin to fill the airways, festive seasonal celebrations 2020-style begin to occupy prime time television schedules. And the atmosphere begins to swell with the nostalgia of by-gone eras of Christmas past.

Characteristic of scenes of Christmas past is the image of a village, a small one usually, with rows of houses and a main thoroughfare that ends at the door of the village church. The whitened steeple stands as the tallest structure in the picture, reaching out to draw our hearts to worship.

Such seasonal images persist every year despite the fact that few towns in America look like this anymore.  Sure, there are small villages in America that might have such a church at the end of Main Street, but it's more the exception to the rule.  Which raises the question, why do we love these images and celebrate them when they look nothing like our hometown?

Perhaps it’s because Advent reminds us of our need for a sense of belonging to a village, one intimate enough for us to be known, one in which we are sure of a higher order beyond ourselves and our village.

In the strange world of 2020, this need for a village is perhaps as strong as it has ever been in America.  As we have grown more and more disconnected for various reasons, the hunger for connection has grown.

Many have turned to politics this season to find their village.  The rise of political tribalism in 2020 has been the result, driving a deep wedge into the heart of our unity as a nation. The two sides of Main Street appear to be at war, threatening the viability of the UNITED States of America.  The more we citizens seek our sense of belonging in political villages, the more we contribute to the dissolution of the universal social contract that undergirds the foundation of our national union. But there is another way.

Currier and Ives Christmas cards remind us that our connection and belonging is not grounded on either side of Main Street; it is founded at the end of Main Street on the doorstep of the church of Jesus Christ. This is where where tribes from all walks of life enter to surrender all other identities in submission to the one identity that offers true belonging.  It is there, by the grace of God, that we are connected to the village that truly matters, the one that has already overcome the tragedies and separations of 2020, the one that offers us an undeniable sense of belonging that transcends all others, the one that shows us the way to unity.

The writer of Hebrews says, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10).  We too are looking forward to that city during Advent 2020.  For we know in the City of God, there is belonging, there is community.  There is a place for all of us.  This is our true village.

Happy Advent 2020!
 Pastor Frank