Our Christmas Walk


When we stepped outside to take a walk this Christmas morning, we were greeted by a cacophony of sound above us. We opened the door, and that very instant, large numbers of sandhill cranes were flying above us.

The sound was inviting. As we ventured beyond the house, our eyes were delighted too. Along with the calls above us, the sandhill cranes made a gorgeous display in the sky. Continuous waves of V-formations passed above us throughout our walk. The birds were flying remarkably low for all to see, and soon, neighbors began to take notice as well.

We passed people along the road, and our platitudes about the uncharacteristic weather — “Can you believe how warm it is today?” — turned into exclamations about what we were seeing. “Can you believe all these cranes? And they’re so low in the sky!” This was a gift to the entire neighborhood.


Sandhill cranes are majestic, and they have captured the attention of cultures throughout history. People have assigned various forms of meaning and significance to them. Some consider sandhill cranes to be harbingers of good fortune and longevity. Some consider them to be symbols of justice, and others look to them as a flight of peacemakers.

I spent a little time learning about these associations once we returned, and of all the descriptions, this meaning stood out to me: When cranes arrive in our lives, they invite us to use our past as a source of strength for our present. 


Last night, I had the great privilege to attend the Christmas Eve celebration at St. John United Presbyterian Church. This is the congregation where I grew up; in many ways, the people there raised me. They certainly created the space for a multitude of community connections to be formed. The relationships from this congregation continue to sustain me many decades after I first arrived.

In recent years, I have been at the front of other congregations leading the celebration. This year, I reveled in the opportunity to sit in the back row and sing the Christmas Carols between my husband and one of my longest friends. It had been about a decade since I was present in my home congregation on Christmas Eve. In that back pew, we took it all in.

And before anyone assumes a picture of total reverence, “taking it all in” included old forms of tradition. . . like passing notes down the pew as we did in our youth group days. Last night on bulletins, we scribbled words that made us chuckle about old, inside jokes.

But “taking it all in” also included the opportunity to enter the Story.

We heard the familiar scriptures about the birth of Jesus, spoken aloud with music in between the readings. These narratives describe points of time millennia ago, but in the moment, I was also reminded again that this is a story we enact. The past becomes a source of strength for our present.

Last night, we entered the sacred story along with communities and congregations across the world.

St john

And as I entered the story in one of my spaces of deepest belonging, the sacred story released hosts of other stories into my memory. In a different way, they are also stories of incarnation. These are stories of human lives in that congregation that I have known for decades,

People who nurtured those teenagers who passed notes,
People who laughed hard and shared meals together,
People who struggled with illness and loss,
People who found new life through holy words in the sanctuary,
People who dared to share their presence  with others beyond the sanctuary.

The past becomes a source of strength for our present.

This is the kind of belonging I want with me in present moment.
This is the kind of belonging I want to create alongside others in the days ahead.

I am grateful for the surprising view and birdsong that greeted us this Christmas morning.

The past becomes a source of strength for our present.
Those cranes seem like the right kind of heavenly host to usher it in.



Renee Roederer


2 thoughts on “Our Christmas Walk

  1. I am thinking of the belonging, of the joint effort of the cranes in their journey forward. Thank you for sharing this sighting, and your thoughts! Merry Christmas!


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