Dec 10, 2009

Advent

We are in the church season of Advent. I asked my street kids what that means. I got a series of declarations in response:

  • We celebrate Jesus being born.
  • You know there is no proof Jesus was born on Christmas Day.
  • It used to be a pagan holiday and it still is. We just celebrate presents now.
  • I hate Christmas. It's never been good for me.

I told them it was a season of "waiting." It's what the word means. They all had stories of one of their worst times of waiting and shared a few:

  • I'm waiting now to try to get home. I just want to go home.
  • I waited to see if I would get out of jail or go to prison for a long time.
  • Even though I had the shakes, I had to wait all day yesterday for a beer. It was terrible.

I explained that we all probably hate waiting because we're not in control. But I explained that we could experience this in two major ways: worry... or anticipation.

When we worry, we imagine all the things that may go wrong. All the things we should have done. All the things people may be doing to us. Worry feels bad. It's natural. And a little worry might even be helpful, but more than a little isn't. It changes our bodies and minds and can literally wreck us.

Anticipation is focusing on the possible good outcomes. Anticipation is an experience of joy and comfort and peace. Anticipation is good for us. It, too, has effects on our body and mind. They are positive. We heal better, we sleep better, we perform better.

So... back to Advent of Christmas. Which is it? Worry or anticipation? Well... it depends. If you make Christmas all about presents and parties and getting everything done, it can turn into an advent of worry. And it drags you down. If you make Christmas all about reliving your worst memories of Christmas, family, and terrible happenings, it becomes an advent of worry. If  you focus on renewing friendships, adding friendships, and being in the moment, Christmas can be an Advent of anticipation.


While doing Bible study with street kids the other day,we were in John 10 looking at "I am the gate" statement. It's a little weird to simply say, "I am the gate." But we examined it in the negative sense... what is He not saying? He's not a fence. He's not a wall. He's not a fortress. He'a a gate, meant for opening... meant for passing through safely. And HE is the door. It's not some place, some rule, or some body else. It's Him. He's involved very personally in entering.

But gates can be locked. Is this one open? Can I pass through? "Knock and the door will be opened," another scripture promises.

Then we did an exercise. Imagine a redwood tree. You know... the big kind that have tunnels that cars can drive through. The kind that hurt your neck to look up to try to find the top. Now image a door in it. Closed. And with a little sign on it that says: "Jesus. All who want, may enter."

At one point in our lives, we all waited outside that door. As we stood there, we probably worried: "Am I good enough? Am I willing to risk it? Does Jesus love me? Haven't I done so many things the door is really locked?" Waiting... worrying... It's an advent season in our life.

And Jesus is also waiting... but on the other side of the door. This is His advent, too. However, Jesus isn't worrying. He anticipates each and every person who knocks at the door. He celebrates every one.

Now imagine finding the courage to knock on the door. With quiet and trembling voice, we say, "Jesus... I've done terrible things, but I want you to be my personal Savior. Let me in." The door opens a bit. You slip through, wondering what will be on the other side. On the other side, you find another sign on the back of the tree. It's a much bigger sign. It's in bright colors and announces a celebration. It has your face on it. And it says, "Chosen from the beginning... Welcome home!"

I do celebrate Christmas! And this year part of what I celebrate will be the anticipation of people knocking at the door, the door being opened, and them going through. Amen.