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O Come, Emmanuel

candle

“No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud, those who,
because they have everything
look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel.
God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.”
Oscar Romero

 

  • 3.1 million children will die this year of starvation.
  • There have been 972 deaths in 236 mass shootings since 2012 (Courtesy of Stanford Libraries, Stanford Mass Shooting in America)
  • Due to world wide war and famine, there are 59 million forcibly displaced peoples, half of which are below the age of 18.
  • Since June 2014 ISIS has executed 10,000 men, women, and children – many for simply being gay, disabled, Christian, or hoping for democracy.
  • The United States of America, once a beacon of hope and asylum, has turned its back on refugees, disdains the religious freedom of its minorities, and fears the diversity that once made it great.

O Come, Emmanuel We are truly poor

I have spent the last month trying as best I can to identify, engage and verbalize the unnoticed emotions that have grown in my heart over this past year. I have found fear, hopelessness, and sadness.

And in these tucked away places, I have experienced grace upon grace during Advent. The scriptures have comforted me, saved me, reminded me that what is broken will be mended, and that darkness does not win.

Thankfully, these statistics are not the whole story. God is moving. But just because my stockings are hung with care and my Christmas tree is beautifully lit does not mean that these things are not horrible facts with which we are all still living.

We must take the time to find the black of our deep despair so that when the light comes, we can drink it in like Holy Wine. This is Advent and Christmas. Life and Hope are meant to address the reality of a sadness we have recognized.

During the first part of December, we realize that, no matter how ingrained Dicken’s Carol is in our Christmas sentiment, the December season is not about being better givers, it is about becoming desperate receivers. We are anguished for salvation from the violence, starvation, and hate that makes us weak and frustrates our hope.

What this season demands is difficult. It is easier to deny ourselves an Advent Season.

Unless you are ready to be poor, and helpless, to have a deep desire and to finally feel those things from which we all run – December will be just another season of dissociation. Christmas will come; we will sing praise to a Savior we did not know we needed; we will be disappointed that the 25th did not meet our expectations; the year will turn over, and we will start again. Too many evangelical churches with their rush to fill seats, create and deliver a sentimental mishmash of ecstatic emotions – emotions that almost always fade into the darkness they were created to ignore.

But if you can just have the faith that darkness faced will not be darkness won you will discover that Christ.Will.Come…..and He will win.

God has spoken to my fear about Islam and Israel –

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…the Sprit of the Lord will rest on Him…The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” – Isaiah 11:1, 6-7

God has spoken to my helplessness about the hungry. Over my inadequate, selfish and insufficient giving, searching, saving, loving — He has whispered:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! … You eat the curds, clothe yourself with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost….

So I myself will search for the sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they are scattered…I will tend them in good pasture…there they will feed in a rich pasture….I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Ezekiel 34

There is still time to refuse the sentiment, to listen to the deep, to pay attention to the tears, weaknesses, and limitations of your self, the world, and your government. Advent is a time to suffer with meaning, to suffer toward meaning.

And then. And then.

The hope of redemption might break out on Christmas day, and you might worship Him more fully, having had the courage to really know and see that from which He will rescue you.

Jesse Tree

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The Jesse Tree is a sweet Advent tradition that can be as creative or as straightforward as you please. Essentially, it is a potted plant or a smaller christmas tree decorated with symbols of all those who went before and prepared the way, or created the story, that lead to Christ.

Each day we hang an ornament that can be bought or hand made, that represents one of the many seminal characters of scripture. Adam and Eve have an apple, Jacob has a little ladder, Noah has a rainbow, and so on.

If you like Ann Voskamp, she has a book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, that is great for older kids. I bought my ornaments on Etsy, and I know a few other friends who have done the same with a lot of success.

After proofreading this post, I realize that what follows is a free, indulgent and unnecessary foray into Theology aka:

Why Jesse Tree

When children come to scripture, especially as they begin to interpret the Gospel, you want to give them an understanding of the progressive, redemptive movement in scripture. This is a gift that will keep giving as they grow and mature. It will feed their faith for the rest of their life. The Jesse Tree travels from Adam and Eve all the way to Jesus, which gives our children, in quick review, a sense of the grand arc of scripture.

The static hermeneutic lacks power and relevance, the secular hermeneutic lacks direction. But the Jesse Tree teaches our children (subtly, subtly) to see that God has always been moving toward liberation, redemption, and the victory of love.

By giving your children an implicit connection to the redemptive-movement hermeneutic, they can see that Scripture is relevant and powerful to change social structures – that it bridges ancient and modern cultures with ease, wonder, and beauty.

….they will also have less trouble interpreting those biblical narratives regarding slavery, women, and homosexuals that people with the secular and static hermeneutics are always flushing down the toilet….but thats another issue for another day….