Rev. Bethany Peerbolte December 2, 2018
Emoji’s of Christmas
The meme-ologists of the world have mused that the world is evolving beyond words and will end up in a system of symbols like hieroglyphics again. With every new emoji release, I know I feel the rush of being able to more fully express myself. They still haven’t released a laundry emoji so I can’t express my disgust without spelling it out yet, but I still have hope. Emoji’s are a wonderfully frustrating system of communication. At its best, both the texter and the reader know exactly what is meant by the series of images and deep understanding and connection is achieved. At its worst, the reader is left dazed and confused and answers “LOL” anyway.
Symbols have helped humans express themselves for ages. Cave carvings, flags, emojis, these are all systems of symbols that have helped humans communicate ideas and beliefs. Chrismons are one system of symbols humans have invented to express their beliefs. It is also a system that rarely gets explained. Every Christmas churches put up their decorations, and many have a tree dedicated to the Chrismon symbols. We’ve seen it, maybe we decorated it, but do we know the message those symbols were shouting at us? I certainly am stumped on a few of them.
As a Pastor, one would think the realization that I lacked religious knowledge would make me feel inadequate. It doesn’t. I couldn’t care less. It’s December. I’m busy. What does cause me alarm is my knee-jerk disregard for a system of symbols that are trying to do what I feel is also my call. To help people better understand God, their faith and to help them improve their ability to express their beliefs.
I have decided to do some research during advent and share what I find with the internet. This series will hopefully be informative, but it won’t take itself too seriously. Let’s face it, some of these symbols are out there. The symbol that sparked my enlightenment I initially thought was an IUD. I knew that had to be wrong. Christians do this a lot. We come up with something rich and meaningful, a word or symbol, and use it for so long it loses all its original intent. Then when we eagerly show it to our kids they look at us like we have six wings (if you didn’t get that reference I’ve made my point, Revelation is super fun).
In order to keep the tone of this series fun I will also be giving my first impression of the symbol, some insight from my non-churched friends, and ideas from emoji using geniuses (aka Generation Z). I hope you will have as much fun as me learning about these symbols and accept the light-hearted nature of the articles. I hold our religious symbols with the utmost respect. They are what connect us through time and across the globe. They can transmit more meaning at a glance than a preacher can with an hour and an attentive congregation. However, if we do not keep reestablishing their message symbols and words will become meaningless. Part of that regeneration is truthfully examining them and listening to the next generation’s experience with them. I hope this time will help invigorate the Chrismons in your life so that when it is time to take down the Chrismon tree you will hear each symbols message loud and clear.
Rev. Bethany Peerbolte March 2, 2020
March 4, 2019
The climate in Michigan during Lent sets a perfect atmosphere for somber reflection. There will be very few days of sun. The cold will bite at every inch of exposed skin and sink deep into one’s bones. The shadows of trees stretch out long on the snow-covered ground. It is as if a Hollywood director designed this exact scene for the feelings she wished to evoke for Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent for the Church. During this time we are reminded that we were once only molecules of dust and dirt and will be only dirt and dust again someday soon. This weight is purposefully cast onto believers and will continue for the 40-ish days of the Lenten season. A time where Christians reflect on their sinfulness and mortality. The practice is meant to make Easter feel especially light when the miracle of resurrection is revealed.
For many, the weight of Lent is nothing new. We live every day dragging around thoughts of unworthiness and a sense of how crappy we are. We go to sleep most nights replaying every mistake and missed opportunity, begging ourselves to be better tomorrow. Only to hit the pillow the next night with the same dread and self-loathing. For us, Lent is not a quick trek down a dark path, it is a time when the path we walk every day is a little more crowded with downtrodden tourists.
This moment is for those who know the somber path of Lent too well. Use this as a tool whenever Lent gets to be too much, and you need a refreshing breath of renewal.
Lenten Moment Guide
Collect something small (like a stone, a coin, a bead, or a balled-up piece of paper)
Find a comfortable place to sit where you can relax and focus.
Ask God to be with you
Turn down your mind
Turn up God’s voice
Create an ebenezer
When you are ready
This may have felt totally weird to you and that is perfectly okay. Any new spiritual practice will begin with some oddness. Your moment with God is whatever you want it to be, so adjust the plans above to fit your style. Maybe you want to light a candle, or play a song, or hold your pet, make it your own! As long as you are finding moments to be with God you will make it through this Lenten season.
You are a beloved child of God. You have been dust and you will be dust again, but for now…..for now you have been breathed on with God’s full power. You bear the image of God and hold in every cell the potential of love. Let that potential flow because you are priceless to this world. We NEED you to be you to survive.