Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day After

My first Advent at my new church was a positive experience. Four weeks spent looking at the unexpected of God breaking through into individuals lives that never expected the likes of what happened to them. The kids led the community in worship on two separate occasions - once in music on the 16th and then again on the 24th at our family Christmas Eve service. I'm blessed to have such dedicated men and women who helped to make the Bethlehem Village experience a success on the 23rd as well. We had a number of friends brought to church by our kids, and I heard many positive things from parents as well as the kids.

I celebrated Christmas with my extended family for the first time in what must be at least ten years yesterday evening. My cousins children are now grown, home and business owners and doing very well for themselves. It was great to sit back and listen to what is happening in their world. And a bit strange at the same time to realize how differently my life has turned out than I ever expected. I never saw myself preparing to enter full time pastoral ministry but that is what I am doing. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to share and teach God's word to others, yet today I am preparing to preach this Sunday (and yes I know all the jokes about "Black Sunday" and preachers!) What started out as a year that wondered where my next zip code would be has ended in on a positive note. I've been living out our Advent message of expecting the unexpected this entire year. Spirituality, Christianity in particular is a journey, not a destination. It's something that is worked out in the inner parts of our being throughout our entire life journey and really doesn't become recognized fully until that moment when we exhale in this world and inhale in the next. Yet for me, the highlight of the day was having the opportunity to connect with a dear friend in a real, authentic conversation last night.

Yet all that said, I am glad that it is December 26th. It's nice to have a day where I am not having to focus on the madness that comes with a holiday like Christmas. Granted, I know that much of this 'post bah-humbug' is because I am not particularly fond of the Christmas season to begin with; yet I find for me the challenge is trying to carve time out for myself to find a way to prepare my own life and heart for what is happening. I'd have to rate myself a B- this Advent season which is a vast improvement over the past two Advents in Oregon where I was so out of my comfort zone. The added busyness of the time pushed my 'saying no' boundaries to the breaking point and I found myself more often than not putting myself on the bottom of the "take care of" list and basically neglecting myself too often. Today is being spent reading at a cafe sipping a great latte overlooking the SF skyline. Tonight it's working out at the gym and then coming home to a quiet of a candles and good music. The holiday season is over thank goodness - the challenge is taking the meaning of Christmas with me throughout the coming year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Unveiling

"and the word became flesh and dwelt among us."

It never fails. Each Advent I get stuck on this verse more than any other passage of Scripture that I reflect on. Why would the Creator of the Universe want to identify with humanity on such a level? I haven't the foggiest idea. It reminds me of my theology and Christology classes at Fuller, when we would get to the concept and thoughts on kenosis - God/Jesus emptying himself as he became man. The more I would read or reflect on the words, the more I find myself asking what I am sure is the million dollar question - Why?"

I wonder what it was like for Mary and Joseph, to watch their child begin to grasp the reality of who he was. When was that point when Jesus understood that he was "different" than others? When his destiny would never equal those of his peers, his family? How does one parent the Son of God? Amazing seems to be the emotion that I am experiencing this Advent season. Amazed at what God did by interrupting space and time to manifest as a child. Amazed at individuals such as Zachariah, Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth as they realized that God was stretching them beyond their wildest ideas and beliefs - forcing them to see and experience God on a level that others could never imagine. Amazed that in the midst of merchandising, Christmas specials, secularization and whatnot, the manger is still the focus of what this season is all about.

May your advent be one of amazement also.