This year my spouse and I decided that we would make or create our Christmas gifts for each other. From the word, "Go," each of us knew what the other was going to make or create, but knowing and seeing the actual outcome were two very different things.
If you know my spouse at all, you know that I am coming out ahead in this deal. I agreed to pull staples from their office ceiling in our basement (the previous owners threw A LOT of staples into that room for whatever reason), remove the harsh fluorescent lighting, and introduce some other lighting. My spouse, on the other hand, has made me a stole.
In case you aren't up on your church lingo, a stole is the colorful fabric I wear around my neck on Sunday mornings. The colors usually match the liturgical colors of the season. The stole is to signify that the person has put on the yoke of Christ through the process of ordination. Stoles are usually pretty expensive, so outside of just a couple, most of my stoles are hand-me-downs from beloved clergy I count as mentors and friends who are now retired.
So I asked my spouse to make me a stole that would work for our "white and gold" seasons meant to signify purity, light, glory, and joy. I explained that I wanted it to work for any of these "high, holy seasons" like Christmas and Easter, Epiphany, and All Saints, and that I wanted it to look like a quilt. What I received was beyond my wildest imagination! The stole was--IS--BEAUTIFUL! My spouse had lovingly patched and stitched sections of fabric together to create a tapestry of love and light that I cannot wait to wear for the first time on Christmas Eve. It's something beautiful, that began from the simplest of things: fabric, thread, time, and love.
I don't know what plans (if any) you have for Christmas, but my prayer for each and every one of you is that you will have a patchwork Christmas all your own. The kind of Christmas born of simple things that you piece and patch together in order to create something beautiful. Maybe it's stitching together a holiday meal on a budget with friends. Maybe it's piecing together time with family members you don't regularly see. Maybe it's a patchwork of gifts and crying kids and stops at this house and that house, or maybe it's simply sitting alone in the dark, staring at a lit Christmas tree, and breathing deep of the restful solitude.
I don't know what it is for you, but I know it will be born of simple things; ordinary things that we so often overlook or take for granted. And isn't that how most of the best things come to us anyway? In sticks and string. In smiles and tears. In knowing laughter. In a kiss. In a hug. Isn't that also how God chooses to come to us too? In neighbors and strangers, in trans youth and straight allies...even in a brown, Middle Eastern baby from a "throwaway town"--a refugee, who would one day show us all the Way.
Merry Patchwork Christmas!
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.