I am giving stones for Christmas. No, not lumps of coal for the naughty, although 2020 might deserve it. I am giving geodes – plain-looking rocks on the outside, with hollow centers of beautiful crystalline structures.
Geodes have been significant in my ministry. As the first pastor of Pathway Ministries in Byron Center, Michigan, I purchased a medium-sized geode for our baptismal font. The inner cavity worked well to hold the water for sprinkling. We gave each baptized person a small geode as a remembrance of their baptism. This connected to God providing Israel water from the rock to meet their need in the wilderness (Ex. 17). Paul references this story in 1 Corinthians 10:2–4, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (NIV).
The hidden beauty of geodes reminds me of the blessings of God in rocky times. For example, Jacob sets up the rock at Bethel to remember God’s promise as he flees into exile and at Galeed as he returns (Gen. 28 and 31). The stone tablets of the law remember the covenant between God and his people represented by 12 stone pillars (Ex. 24). Stones witnessed the tribes of Israel in the high priest’s robe (Ex. 28). Joshua remembers the Jordan crossing and the renewal of the covenant with stones of witness (Josh. 4 and 24). Samuel set up the stone “Ebenezer,” the stone of help, to remember deliverance from the Philistines (1 Sam. 7). The Psalmists cry out to God their Rock to remember them in times of need (Ps. 18, 28, 42 and 62). In exile Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue-crushing rock as the coming victorious establishment of God’s everlasting worldwide kingdom (Dan. 2).
In the New Testament, Jesus designates Peter and his confession of Jesus as the Messiah as the “Rock” upon which he will build his church (Matt. 16). Luke tells us at the Triumphal Entry that if the disciples are silent the stones will cry out (Luke 19:40). Peter celebrates Jesus as the Living Stone rejected, but now the cornerstone of God’s new temple, to which we, like living stones, are being added (1 Peter 2). Even the stones of the New Jerusalem envision the beauty of the new creation (Rev. 21).
And there’s more – the stones of the original creation, David’s sling stones of victory, the Temple stone, and the stones of Jerusalem’s wall.
Most of all, the split-open geode reminds us of the empty tomb. Matthew tells us already at Jesus’ death there is an earthshaking foretaste of the victory. “The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (Matt. 27:51b–52). Then on the first day of the week, “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Matt. 28:2).
Stones and Stories
I found some geodes taken from the Des Moines River near Farmington, Iowa that I will distribute for Christmas. I cannot give all of you stones, but I offer you these rock-solid stories. May they be for you this Christmas stones of witness and an Ebenezer, a stone of help, in these rocky times.