This week I've been sharing a song called Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.
The song is a featured song in my book Twelve Days: A Christmas Exploration and was also part of my series of posts today on Advent.
It was not long ago that I was deeply moved by a church service conducted by my pastor Vernon Rainwater. We were then also in week 3 of Advent and his study and singing was on this Joni Mitchell song, "Both Sides Now". It was absolutely beautiful.
We studied love. True love.
The question proposed: what do you want out of love, and what is in your way? Life is full of illusions and sometimes our vision is cloudy. But God,who resides above the clouds and has a clear view, who is everlasting, has a plan, has power to fulfill it, and provides what we need right when we need it. He loves us unconditionally. We get to do the easy part, just have faith and belief and accept the gift - unconditionally.
It is easy to get caught up in the holidays only thinking of Jesus as a beautiful baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. A beautiful scene of innocence.
Jesus - Son of God, King of the entire Universe bursting into the atmosphere.
"Rows and flows of angel hair And ice cream castles in the air. Feather canyons everywhere. I've looked at clouds that way" - Joni Mitchell
His entrance into the world those 2000+ years ago - was not majestic. His mom rode on the back of a donkey for 80 miles. Certainly she was tired and in pain - and Joseph had to walk the entire way with a lot on his shoulders and in his heart, he had to stay focused to protect his family as they walked in the middle of the night, it is likely he was dehydrated and maybe even had blisters on his feet from the long journey. This refugee family was required to travel to fulfill an earthly law - which was all centered around power and money (Herod needed the tax money to fill his need for lavish architecture and grandeur and continued to raise taxes - so the way to get the most money was to do a census and to collect the $).
Oh little town of Bethlehem - the people had no idea that a traveler was about to give birth to the Lord who would fulfill a more important,heavenly law.
Up until now - the townspeople were going about their business. They were not waiting on baited breath for the arrival of the King. It is like us today - we wake up, go about our business, let life and distractions get in the way, we waste more time than we invest, and we think we are invincible or that tomorrow will be waiting for us.
Perhaps you have heightened sadness and discouragements during holiday times. Or maybe you are waiting for 'tomorrow' and the new year making new resolutions - perhaps to compensate for the regrets of the year past. Maybe you have a job you hate, relationships that aren't working, you try as you can - but can't make ends meet, or maybe your life is ok but you still feel you are not fully living out the truest sense of the service of your purpose. Our vision is simply clouded. Sunny skies seems gray.
"But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on eveyone. So many things I would have done. But clouds got in my way" - Joni Mitchell
The arrival of His entrance was not like an E-online red carpet event, a VIP event full of glitz glamour and illusion. No. The first people who heard of his arrival - were the night shift. Poor blue collar workers out in a field watching over their sheep. The bible says in Luke that they lived outside in the fields. Wanderers. Vagabonds perhaps. They had only what they had on their backs - probably not much else.
Think beyond the clouds.
Clouds are an illusion. They seem real - but they are just gas, just water vapor. Tiny little droplets of water so small they can float.
That night - a supernova was shining brightly in the sky. Maybe there weren't even any clouds in the sky. I wonder if anyone truly was curious "star light, star bright, first star I see tonight..." what were they wishing for? And then suddenly - the light got even brighter. It was the middle of the night in the quiet desert. Imagine it suddenly looking like daylight! The bible says "they were terrified".
DO NOT BE AFRAID
The angel messenger told them to not be afraid because he was bringing good news of great joy. The angel specifically told them where to go to find the good news when suddenly the entire sky filled up with angels singing and glorifying God saying "glory to God in heaven, and peace on the earth for all men."
"I've looked at clouds from both sides now from up and down, and still somehow its cloud illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all" - Joni Mitchell
The shepherds had to process that and decide if they would go in search for a love worth finding. If you received a message as blatant as a bright light, angel specifically telling you something, and then the entire heavens opening up and singing, it would not be hard to decide to leave your job right at that moment in search of the gift. They left and did as instructed.
It isn't so easy for us - we have to discern, quiet our hearts, pray, and make choices. It is much harder when we let clouds get in the way...
The shepherds quickly found the family and when they got there, they told them what the angel said and then went out and told the good news to everyone they could find. They found love that night.
One verse I find very fascinating and that I want to think more about is Luke 2:19.
Do we really believe God came to this world?
That He has a plan?
A way to fulfill the plan?
The leadership to guide us through the journey of the plan?
Could our creator know us like a Father?
Could we all be connected to this One source?
Could extraterrestrial beings actually visit us?
Could she (Mary) be looking directly into the eyes of God?
This was so much for a young teenage mom to process. The verse says "she committed these things to memory and considered them carefully."
May we all commit to memory the things that show us beyond the clouds and consider them carefully.
Lord, thank you for your everlasting power and love for even me.
My featured Christmas song is from Joy Williams in the first comment below. Please watch the video all the way through. Especially if you want to see the other side of the clouds!
Here's the full Joni Mitchell song: https://youtu.be/7cBf0olE9Yc?si=aU4-0V99kIJOKaJv
Here is the BEAUTIFUL full service from my Pastor. I implore you and encourage you and invite you to listen: https://youtu.be/IsDgKPyKZpE?si=RSTS-V7GSREofyxQ his lesson starts at minute 39:05