Location. Location. Location.
In the Jewish faith no location was as important as the Temple. The Temple was where people gathered for worship, offered sacrifices, and heard the reading of the Law. It was also the hub of their religion centered society. There are entire books of the Old Testament dedicated to the long process of building and caring for the Temple as well as all the proper religious customs to be observed at the Temple in Jerusalem. However... look at the location of Christmas.
Mary and Joseph welcomed Jesus into the world in a borrowed barn. They laid their new born into a manager, which is a fancy word for feeding trough. The angels shared the good news of the both of Jesus to homeless men - sheep herders - working the night shift. Wise men - alone in their interpretation - followed a star and found Jesus with Mary and Joseph. God made the greatest announcement in human history outside the walls of worship at the Temple and in a most humble alternative. Christmas shows up in the least likely of places.
What does it mean for us that Christmas takes place on the outskirts?
Christmas will be here before you know it - we are in to the final countdown. And then it will be over. But for a few more days, Christmas is happening all around us. Each time you choose faith, generosity and invitation, Christmas becomes real in a way that is more than on the calendar. God-is-with-us faith can break out at work, at home, and in the neighborhood. Wherever unlikely people gather, God is ready to share Himself - Christmas -THROUGH YOU!
It may not look like what you expect, but being ready to say "yes" to God's nudge to pray for someone, to encourage someone, to give your stuff away, or to be a peace maker in a difficult situation. YOU can share Jesus with a world desperate for something more.
Ever do some good ol' fashioned road raging?
One of the weird things about having a new 16 year old driver in Chicago land is that I have to see my own driving habits through the eyes of someone who is learning how things "should" be done.
I have never been so frequently corrected on my use of turn signals, full stopping, and following distance... let alone lane usage, speed, and all the other harrowing habits that I have taken up - that blend right in to the other cars around me on the road.
Suffice to say, I don't want my son driving the way I do, and that has made me think about more than just road habits.
Do you find yourself sucked into the negativity around you? Do you set out with good intentions, only to end up engaging in the behaviors of cutting down, arguing and hostility, and negativity that saturate your interactions throughout your day? It's probably not what we hope for ourselves as an example of someone pursuing Jesus.
The call to live as a Christ follower is a high and counter-cultural bar. This week we are going to talk about the Advent value of peace - and the Christ mandate to be a "peace maker." We don't have to escape, leave, or reroute our lives to find and spread peace, but we do have make some changes in the habit and practice of inviting God's peace into ourselves. And God's peace will change everything around us.
See you Sunday at 10 to worship and seek God together! Invite a friend - you may never know the difference God can make in their life!
I might have been in fourth or fifth grade... I know I was a stubborn preteen. Mom and dad forced me to put on a Christmas sweater and corduroy pants as we made our way to Christmas Eve worship. Christmas and Easter are the only times some people show up for church, but in my family it was the only time I dressed up. Let's just say I was reluctant to the formality.
My dad made our entire family come forward to light Advent Candles and read scripture in front of the church. I can remember how awkward it felt to stand in front of a crowded sanctuary reading from Luke "behold I give you good news of great joy for all the people." Even then I thought my voice was annoying to hear (I still do). After we lit the candles and read the scripture we assumed our seats on the front row, singing familiar Christmas Carols. I was prepared to zone out, as usual, but then something unexpected happened... something significant... something that still serves a reminder, almost like a snapshot picture on the refrigerator.
That night it became to real to me that I was loved by God. I don't know if it was the beautiful poetry of scripture, the faith of the music, or the beauty of the candles in a dark space, but God's eternal love for me became real that Christmas. I've never forgotten that moment. I knew I was loved no matter what by the huge love of God.
Oh, I've managed to forgot many times since that I am loved unconditionally - and I've managed to act like it. I've also forgotten I am loved, so I may share love and invite others to be loved. But the memories of God at Christmas 30 years ago still stir my sometimes dormant faith. Even as I type these words, I remember the shadow of the candle bouncing on the brown carpet, and somewhere in that moment God showed up in the heart of a ten or eleven year old.
I am not sure if you have any similar memories of God. When my faith goes dry, it is these memories of God that pull me forward to seek the next experience of faith. This Christmas season, I hope you will intentionally seek God in worship - at home and at church. Sometimes you might feel like it is merely doing what we did last week or last year - and the routine might not immediately lead to the sacred celebration. But I want you to know that someone took me- and MADE me- worship that day and it changed my life. I am glad they did. Because God reached into my life, in the same way He is longing to reach into your life this Christmas season.