By Pastor Paula Burchill
We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, and one of the joys of that is looking at all the ornaments. I love the ones that my kids made—especially when they have pictures. We have cranky looking angels and mischievous looking shepherds. We all laugh when those come out.
But this year, I found myself dwelling on the decorations we have from loved ones who have died. There is our quilted tree skirt and matching table runner that were a wedding gift from Cherie. There are the ornaments Jackie made for me every year of my childhood. There is the little wooden car my husband got from his second grade teacher. And of course, our grandparents and all that they gave us over the years.
This year these treasures made me think of that passage in Hebrews where we are told that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses [12:1]. In Hebrews, the cloud of witnesses refers to the faithful people who have paved the way for us in our faith. How true that is! My grandma taught me stewardship, Jackie’s life was a lesson in laughter, Cherie treasured her family, and Mrs. Innis loved children like no other teacher. We would not be who we are without them in our life.
During the communion liturgy, we say a line: And so with the church on earth and the hosts of heaven. We say that line right before singing the Holy, Holy, which we believe we are singing right along with the church on earth and the hosts of heaven.
I love that mystical part of communion. I love knowing that my grandpas are up in heaven joining me in the holy meal. Sometimes when I receive the bread, I close my eyes and think of the hosts of heaven—the cloud of witnesses—who made me a pastor, and I have to smile.
Because isn’t it just like God to surround us with witnesses? To be holding us up in ways we hardly even stop to think about.
Well, this Christmas I am stopping to think about my cloud of witnesses and I encourage you to as well. I’m grateful for all they have given me and continue to give me in my life.