Broken ballerina

Pastoral Messages | December 21, 2016

My family moved from Colorado to Wisconsin just weeks before my sophomore year of high school. I eventually made some really wonderful friends, but the first months were very lonely. On Christmas morning that first Wisconsin winter, my dad gave me an intricate and slender ceramic ballerina Christmas ornament. It was gift thanking me for “being so graceful, even during a really hard few months.”  It was simple gift, encouraging and full of such love. I got up to give my beloved dad a hug. But as I stood up, somehow I dropped my beautiful ballerina ornament, breaking her head right off. Maybe not quite so very graceful, after all.

broken_ballerinaThe story has been retold among my family nearly as many times as I’ve attempted to glue the ornament back together. So now I just place the pieces of that ballerina on a little bed of tissue paper on a flat branch of our tree. I get wistful seeing her, missing my late father. Sparkling lights shine on that broken ornament, as it lies next to a silly looking angel my daughter made with dried pasta and ornaments collected over the decades.

I could spend hours looking at our Christmas tree. There’s a story hanging on every one of those branches. And there’s a whole lot of joy there. But there’s also room on that tree for my little broken ballerina; room for my own grief among the delight. Somehow it all fits together, maybe it makes that tree even more beautiful.

It’s true for us this Christmas season. There’s room to feel both delight and sorrow, joy and heartbreak. For many who step into this holiday season with grief over all kinds of loss, the delight and wonder of this season might feel completely dissonant. But the angels came to the shepherds on that first Christmas night, not only saying a dazzling “glory to God!” but also a comforting “do not be afraid, a child is born for you.” We worship a Savior born in a humble stable, surrounded by both poor shepherds and wealthy wise men. If there’s room for both the sparkle of gold and the smell of sheep, there’s room for all that we bring to worship, too.

On Christmas Eve, we’ll sing about fields and flood, rocks, hills and plains repeating the song of joy and shepherds prolonging their joyous strains, inspired by that heavenly song. We’ll also sing about how the hopes and fears of all our years are met in Jesus, who is love’s pure light, brings the dawn of grace into the darkness of our lives. There’s room for all of us, with all the complex and contradictory things that we carry, around the Christ Child.

After all, this season isn’t really about perfectly glittering trees or people – it’s about God being born right into the fullness of human life, with all our joys and sorrows, worries and hopes. The gift of love that we know as Jesus is why we sing, smiling with tears in our eyes.

Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

10 Comments on “Broken ballerina”

  • Darla DeVriendt

    December 25, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Pastor Sara,
    Thank you for sharing such an inspiring message! Merry Christmas!

  • Gary Maiden

    December 23, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    On target, as always. Thank you Pastor Sara, and Merry Christmas.

  • Cathy Crampton

    December 23, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Thank you for this touching message, and sharing your story .

  • Jana Baltimore

    December 23, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Beautiful reflection on God’s love amid our own “broken-ness”.
    As I reflect on your message I am thinking of people who will also be missing a loved one this Christmas for the first time. I pray that they can experience a joy and peace of God’s love during this time that is filled with so many memories of Christmas’s past.

  • David DeWit

    December 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    One can’t help shedding a few tears when we realize that those who made the happy memories for us are gone. Christmas is always a bittersweet time for some of us. Great thoughts: Thanks, Sara!

  • Bonnie Heydeman

    December 22, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    For me this time of year is very difficult as I remember my dad’s passing so close to Christmas and my mom following only eight weeks after. Having a December birthday makes it more difficult. It’s hard to celebrate sometimes but your message brings me some comfort and reminds me that amidst the chaos of my grief there is much joy in the memories.

  • Deb Lamp

    December 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Pastor Sara, what a beautiful reminder of what is so important to us. It is a difficult time for some of us but we are overjoyed that not only we celebrate the birth of Jesus we will soon be moving back into our house. Special time of year.

  • Deb Lamp

    December 22, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Pastor Sara, what a beautiful reminder of what is so important to us. It is hard this year yet exciting as we wait to get in our ” new” house. It will not be Long now.
    Thank you

  • Priscilla Hull

    December 22, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Lovely…thank you.

  • Vicki Felger

    December 22, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Pastor Sara, thank you so much for this beautiful, heartfelt message.

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight