On symbols

This morning’s Fruit of the Vine features a reflection from Lucy Anderson, first published in 1988. Lucy passed away in 2013, but her words remain both vibrant and encouraging, especially in today’s short essay, one in which Lucy draws our attention to the symbols of Christmas. Lucy reminds us that our love of Christmas carols is partly because of music’s power as “the symbol of joy. . . . The Christmas tree graces our homes as a beautiful symbol of hope.” The gifts we exchange — “a lovely symbol of love.” Bells remind us of the angels’ promise of “peace on earth,” and the Christmas star offers “a bright symbol of God’s message of forgiveness.”

There’s another symbol here. Just two pages before this morning’s short reflection, there’s a photo of Lucy. She’s smiling, and below her photo is a brief biography. Lucy served at Malone University, Barclay College, George Fox College (now University), the yearly meeting office of Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region. She lived in Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Guatemala, Burundi, Kenya. She wrote her life story. And through her words, Lucy remains with us, encouraging us today with a message of hope recorded almost 30 years ago.

I never met Lucy. But when I was just a toddler, her older brother, Roy, came over to my house for lunch and stayed to tune our piano. When I was in grade school, I went to Camp Tilikum, where two of Lucy’s nieces taught me songs and told me stories about Jesus. In college, I often ran into Lucy’s son, Paul. He believed in me. He wanted me to think about graduate school. He always had a word of encouragement. And this last year, I’ve been honored to work closely with Lucy’s daughter, Marva. In her role as clerk of the EFCNA board of Christian Education, Marva has been responsible for helping Barclay Press plan for and move into the future. Marva has been a real source of hope and support for me.

One more thing. Last January, while I was still just days into my new role at Barclay Press, there had been a financial gift — the sale of stock left by the estate of Lucy and her husband, Alvin, that took pressure off of me, giving me a little more time to adjust to the new position and all the unknowns that entailed. 

So I’m grateful for Lucy. And for her words this morning.

Lucy offers a prayer at the end of today’s reflection: “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!”

And I am thankful.

Eric Muhr