Monthly Archives: December 2012

Ready for Christmas?

Once a month, I contribute to the Worship Connect blog on the Covenant Church website. Here’s the link to today’s post – and a promise to write more regularly in the New Year. until then, Merry Christmas!
http://blogs.covchurch.org/wc/2012/12/ready-for-christmas/

There are no words

Unspeakable sorrow.

Unimaginable pain.

Loss. Tragedy.

None of these words has enough depth of meaning when I think of the suffering more than two dozen families are experiencing as I write this. My petty little sorry-I’ve-been-too-busy-to write-anything planned bit of cheerfulness just got swept away in the horror of death. Children, gone. Like that – just, gone.

Where is the invitation to wait for the coming of our Lord in glory, amid all this senselessness? It is here, amid this senselessness. Precisely amid this senselessness, we wait. We hope. We struggle to comprehend. We sorrow for the brokenness that could allow such a terrible thing to happen. We remember that Herod slaughtered little boys when Jesus was born, just as tragically, just as senselessly. And Rachel wept, as we weep now.

Loss. Tragedy.

Unimaginable pain.

Unspeakable sorrow.

Behind the Storm

Weather fronts fascinate me. I love to watch a good thunderstorm roll in, a wall of black cloud against the sky, the atmosphere full of wind and lightning. The line between calm and storm can sometimes be so well-defined that it looks like God took out a ruler to draw it in the sky. The stark change of temperature that comes with a new front can give me goosebumps. There is nothing like weather to make me keenly aware of God’s power.

If you’ve been following the weather news over the past few days, you know that we had a huge snowstorm swirling over the Twin Cities all day yesterday. The front that came through here dumped half as much snow on us in 24 hours as we had all last winter. The snow on our back deck is about 13 inches deep right now. Yes! This is why we love living in Minnesota: winter is really winter here. Once the plows come through to scrape up the last bits of packed snow, we can settle down to Winter As It Was Meant To Be, and a white Christmas is pretty much a sure bet.

Our first winter here in Minnesota, I noticed that people were a little jumpy, easily offended, and even grumpy when we didn’t have snow by Thanksgiving. Something just wasn’t quite right. Then the first snow fell, and everyone relaxed, let out a sigh of relief, and got back to work. Once the weather front had moved through, everyone knew what to expect. Everyone knew it was finally winter, and winter is a known commodity here. We can deal with it.

What follows the snow, though? What happens when the clouds have exhausted their moisture, the barometer goes back to normal, and the sky is blue again? When, exactly, does that happen, anyway? Why is the coming storm so much easier to detect than its aftermath? Why is the approaching front so much more impressive than the trailing vapor of calm that sneaks in behind the blizzard?behind the storm

You might be wondering what all this nonsense about the weather has to do with Advent, with Waiting, with God coming near to us as one of us in the Person of Jesus. I’m not going to insult you by giving you an answer. Just think about it for a bit. Wait in the expectancy of an approaching front. Wait as the clouds vaporize into nothing. Keep waiting …

Where do you find God? Is he most evident in the power of an approaching wall of cloud? Does God make himself known to you mostly during the storm? Do you find God in the calm stillness that follows the wind and weather? 

More and more

Yesterday’s reading from 1 Thessalonians is one of my favorite passages from the Apostle Paul. He clearly loves this church and thinks they are on the right track. His encouragement is more than cheerleading, however. He has no intention of letting this church rest on its laurels, satisfied with a job well done. “You’re doing the right things,” Paul affirms, “so keep doing them more and more.” Paul raises the bar for the church at Thessalonika, just as any good coach would do. “Great job” sounds hollow and meaningless. “You did that really well. Want to go one step higher? Here’s what you need to do to get to the next level …” – now that is coaching.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, … For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. – I Thessalonians 4:1-4, 7-12

As this first week of Advent draws to a close, and we prepare to light the second candle on the Advent wreath, it’s clear that Waiting requires more and more of us. More loving each other, more self-control, more quiet living, more minding our own business, and more working with our hands. This is the stuff of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that is already here among us, but not yet complete. It is for this Kingdom that we wait, more and more.

Whose War?

Maybe it was because I avoided Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but somehow, I managed to forget about this whole “War on Christmas” thing that seems to be raising people’s blood pressure. Today, I read three blog posts on the topic. Sean Palmer started it all. Then my good friend, Matt Nightingale, added his perspective to the Worship Connect blog on the Evangelical Covenant Church website. Finally, someone referenced a blog written by Jason Sanders, which – though it was written back in October – does a great job of summing up what Christians ought to be doing instead of griping about clerks saying “Happy Holidays” as they hand over the credit card receipt.

I don’t think Jesus ever gave two hoots about being politically correct. Jesus cared about the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, the outcast, the orphans, and the widows. Jesus cared about giving hope to those whose hope had run out. If I really want to follow Jesus, as I say I do, shouldn’t I be caring about them, too? This is the real war, as Sean Palmer notes: the one that rages inside me every time I ignore someone I should be loving in Jesus’ Name.

The first week of Advent is almost over. We are nearly one quarter of the way into the waiting. Take a few minutes – you have time for this, so don’t give me any excuses – and go read those other three blogs. Comment on them if you want to.

Then come back here and tell me how your Advent is coming along. Let me know how your waiting is going. What ugly truths and joyous realizations are coming to your attention during this expectant season? How are you dealing with your own War on Christmas?

I really want to know.

What Waiting Is Not

Waiting may look like a passive activity, but I have news for you: waiting takes every fiber of my being. Waiting is not sitting around, lazily doing nothing. Waiting is the hard work of self-restraint. I may look serene to the casual observer who sees me motionless, apparently fixed in space and time, but I am no such thing. I am waiting on hyper-alert, expecting who-knows-what. That low-frequency hum you hear is me, waiting.

Waiting is not giving up control – how can I explain this? – it is not the abdication of responsibility that I always find so annoying in a “let go and let God” approach to life. Waiting is a conscious decision to trust God to keep his promises, even when there is no evidence to support that belief.

Waiting is faith.

Waiting is deciding to stop doing and start being.

Start being more aware.

Start being more compassionate.

Start being more humble.

Start being less anxious.

Start being less self-absorbed.

Start being less indifferent.

Waiting is knowing with certainty that what I offer to God will not come back empty.

Waiting is trusting God to let me know when it’s time to get out of the chair.

How do you wait for God? What keeps you from trusting him to do what he promises?