Sonoma Valley Interfaith
Pastor Matthew Pearson
Pastor Matthew Pearson serves Sonoma United Methodist Church. He hails Virginia, and moved west to attend seminary at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. While in seminary he completed his field education serving at Glide Memorial in San Francisco. He has served as a youth director at Temple United Methodist Church and as campus pastor at the Ecumenical House at San Francisco State University. Sonoma UMC is Matthew's first appointment from the Bishop's Cabinet. "I view ministry as an expression of God's love. When a community of people gather to worship and serve incredible things can happen. We are building the Kingdom of God here and now. Our call, as people of faith, is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. God is wildly in love with us, even before we are aware of God. Grace abounds in the love and life of Christ!" Matthew is an advocate for full inclusion of LGBTQ person's within the life and worship of the United Methodist Church. Matthew studied Theater, Music, and Religion in his undergraduate at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. He has studied improvisational theater with Washington Improv Theater in DC and The Second City Comedy Studies Program in Chicago. He has also acted in, teched for and directed a variety of stage productions. Matthew enjoys making music both as a hobby and as a spiritual discipline. He sings baritone and plays accordion, piano and guitar and was on a clogging team for 6 years while living in Virginia. Matthew resides in Sonoma.
Articles by Matthew Pearson:
An Honest Christmas
Rev. Matthew Pearson
You are allowed to be sad on Christmas. You are allowed to grieve. You are allowed to be angry. Give yourself permission to experience human emotions – no matter where they are on the spectrum.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day hold a lot of emotion. The modern cultural narrative suggests that our ugly sweaters, blinking lights and merry carols should be enough to make anyone bubble over with cheer. This is peer pressure.
Many of us have hurt a lot this year, and all this emphasis on family, friends, and gift giving stirs up a lot of painful stuff in us. Many lost their homes in the fires; some had spouses or children die this year; some are managing chronic depression. You are allowed to be sad on Christmas.
As a pastor, I often feel challenged to deliver a fresh take on the old story of Jesus’ birth. What I keep coming back to though has nothing to do with a Hallmark Christmas, but rather incarnation. Incarnation is a fancy word for “being made flesh” – the story of Christ’s birth is the story of God becoming flesh. God, the lover of all creation, dwelling among and in solidarity with humanity.
Jesus grieved, cried, and said difficult goodbyes. Jesus loved deeply and experienced love lost. ‘God made flesh in Christ, means’ that we are not alone in our present sufferings – we now have a great Empathizer.
God does not ask you to ignore your pain or force a holiday smile. Feel your real feelings – even if they hurt. This is the best that we can do. The Christian narrative is all about new life rising again. Though in order to rise to new life we must acknowledge the places of us that our broken. Brokenness is not a shameful thing, but rather a vulnerable thing; an honest thing.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these words, following his conscripted military service in World War I. Rilke, in modern language, was experiencing PTSD – he was torn between ignoring his pain and embracing it:
“We wasters of Sorrows! How we stare away into sad endurance beyond them, trying to forsee their end. Whereas they are nothing else but our winter foliage, our somber evergreen, one of the seasons of our interior year - not only season – they’re also place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.”
If we ignore our sorrow, we ignore one of the fundamental basics of our humanity – the gift of our emotions. In mourning death, we celebrate life and relationship. In grieving loss, we cope with our own mortality. Sometimes we need to cry. You are allowed to be sad on Christmas.
Dear friends, if you are hurt, be gentle on yourself this season. Know that your pain is important. Know also, that God is wildly in love with you and after a season of sorrow, new life waits again with open arms. You are not alone in your grief.
May God be with you. May you have the strength to feel your true feelings. May you give thanks for what has passed and anticipate with wonder what is yet to come. May your wounds heal with proper care. May we all embrace our human experience and cherish that we do not face the difficult parts alone. I do not wish you a Merry Christmas, but I wish you an Honest Christmas.