by Karla Koon
We have been setting up for our virtual Christmas Eve service. Our church has a series of stained-glass windows that we display for Advent. There was some debate this year about these stained-glass windows, namely should we even put them out. There would be no people in the pews to see them and they would not be in any “camera shot” for the virtual service. I offered to put them out, if for no other reason, so those volunteers filming the virtual service could enjoy them.
As I made my way around the Nave, one pane caught my attention. It is an image of Mary on a donkey being led by Joseph through the narrow streets of Bethlehem. In this image, Joseph had already turned a corner of the street with just his shoulder still visible, as you see Mary from the back, not having yet made the turn. Mary, carrying Christ, not knowing what comes next until she takes that turn. I gazed at the colorful glass image, wondering, how many times since her visit from the Angel Gabriel had Mary felt unknowing? What was around the corner of that narrow road? What was on the horizon? Were there more turns to be taken to get to their destination? Did they know where they were going? And yet they, they faithfully continued forward.
In some ways, this single pane punctuated my year.
This year has been hard. I consider myself fortunate. My organization was considered “essential” from the start of the pandemic. We never shut down, but people were asked to work from home, if their position allowed for it. I was one of those people. I have worked through this pandemic from my dining room table, with occasional single-day trips into the office.
There were times that I had no idea what I was doing. Generally, I am confident in my professional abilities, but the pandemic landscape was changing with such exponential speed that it was hard to keep up. It felt chaotic, stressful, and overwhelming.
I paused in a moment of desperate frenzy and asked myself, “What has God placed before me and what is God calling me to do right now?”. I sat in silence and listened. God wanted me to work on a cost calculation for COVID related hazard pay. I am not sure God was that explicit, but the Holy Spirit drew me to this task as the next, most need step, I could take. This became a common inquiry. It seemed that God’s call was quite diverse. Sometimes it included spreadsheet work, researching new CDC guidelines, unraveling the mysteries of L&I claims in a pandemic and learning to create animated training videos, among other newly required skills.
This question helped focus me and quell the overwhelming nature of my work, but more importantly it grounded that work in God. It required me to say, “Here I am”, minute to minute, hour by hour and day after day. It opened the confounding chaos of perpetual change and uncertainty to the Holy Spirt. It became less frightening to race down the winding path of the pandemic, despite the blind corners. It reaffirmed something I already knew, but sometimes forgot in the smaller details of my day. I carried Christ Jesus in my heart around every bend in the road. I responded to whatever lay before me, not as a knowing professional with the right or correct answer, but as a disciple of Christ, humbly offering an option flowing from love and compassion. The challenges persisted, but I found peace in the turbulence of the pandemic storm.
I lingered at the stained-glass window being drawn further into Mary and Joseph’s story, into my story. I imagine that Mary and Joseph are turning the corner to the inn, and perhaps ultimately to the manger. I know that Mary will give birth to our Savior Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. I am reminded that I carry Christ within me, as I turn every corner into the unknown. And like Mary, I am called to bring Christ’s light into this world.
Karla Koon is a Worship Leader and Eucharistic Minister at St, Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle. When not serving at church or working as the Director of HR Operations and Administration for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (Catholic Charities), you can find Karla, reading, quilting, golfing, hiking, kayaking, and gathering with friends and family.
Photo: Advent Stain-Glass, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, WA.