Thursday, December 20, 2018

On Dark Days

It comes without fail every year. December 21…the shortest day of the year…or the longest period of continual darkness. It falls just a few days before “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I think we are often tempted to ignore the darkness, as if that will make it go away quicker.

But Christmas does not exist apart from darkness. It is placed very strategically in the darkest days. Not so that we can ignore the darkness. Not so we can busy ourselves with erasing the darkness. 

It is placed here so that we know. It reminds us that in the throes of depression…or grief, or pain…whatever darkness is yours…that you do not walk that lonesome valley alone. Christmas is for reminding us that when there was only despair, God came with hope. It is to remind us that when there was only violence and unrest, God came with peace. It is so we know that when we can’t find happiness, God comes with joy. It comes so that we know God loves us not when we love him, but when we need his love the most.

It is not by accident that in the midst of darkness, Christ comes. Christ comes precisely when we need him most. He comes to sit with the depressed. He comes to quiet the anxious. He comes to cry with the grieving. He comes to comfort the suffering. He comes not when we are at our best, but when we are at our most desperate. When darkness invades our days.

If you find yourself this day…this week…this month…consumed by the darkness, fear not. The light is coming into the world. Jesus, the light himself, has not forsaken you. He sits with you. He listens. He holds you. Allow his light to fill your darkness.

Don’t forget. December 21st is the darkest day, because tomorrow it will be brighter. And even now, Jesus is with you.

Monday, December 17, 2018

What Christmas is All About

In September we began a youth group for elementary kids. As it started, I expected four kids. My two, and two others. We just moved here this summer and my kids had no friends to invite. Those two others invited their friends though, and some of those friends because as consistent as the pastor’s kids. Then one of those kids invited one of their friends who started coming regularly. We were growing slowly but surely.

As we began to approach Christmas, a retired teacher saw the potential of the kids who came to worship. We began working on lines for a Christmas play. Our regulars to junior group committed to coming on Sunday morning to practice alongside some kids who came to worship every other Sunday.

Then, on our very last practice the mom of these little boys brought their friend who had started coming to junior group. Could he be part of the play? Yes! We found him a spot.

Yesterday was the day. I got up early and headed to church nervous for them. Guess who was the first family through that door? Yep, it was that little boy who had joined the cast at our last practice with his dad and two younger brothers. As the rest of the cast arrived, they went into the nursery to make sure these little brothers had someone to play with. Another dad joined them to make sure the dad was welcomed too. Then two wonderful women joined them to watch the boys until the play began.
Siblings, grandchildren and cousins all filled the pews to watch the good news shared by our kids. They did great as they shared what Christmas is all about. But before worship even started, they had already shared what Christmas is all about when they invited their friends and made sure new people belonged.

My husband, reflecting on this Sunday, shared the truth that for most of these kids, they wouldn’t have had this chance at a mega-church. Sure, some of them would. But for those who are not theater geeks, whose parents work on weekends, who didn’t become part of the cast until the last practice, this chance to welcome their parents into their church wouldn’t have happened. These kids needed a church flexible  enough to make space for them.

I am really proud of our church kids. Not because of their acting and singing skills (yes they were great!) but for the way they welcomed people into their church family and for their willingness to do scary things for God.  I think that if they keep on doing those two things, God will keep giving them new kids to welcome. I pray that us adults can do those two things too. I pray that we can help these kids’ parents belong at Tanner Valley UMC. I pray that we can do scary things for God. If we can do those two things, we may find we too have room to grow. We may discover what Christmas is all about.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

Turn on the Light

Advent is a time of year when we talk a lot in the church about light in the darkness. It is at this, the darkest season of the year that we talk about God coming to a dark world bringing light.

I love light. The first thing I do in the morning is to go through the house and turn on lights. There is something about light that wakes us up. It doesn’t just help us see what is there, but helps us biologically to move.  I don’t just do this for me, but for everyone in the house. It seems to pull the kids out of their beds and get the house up and going.

Jesus is talked about over and over again as The Light of the World. I believe that seeing God has that same effect as light in our homes. God helps us to see the world, and even see the dangers in it. But God also gives us the energy and courage to face that world.

Yesterday, once again I found myself at a clergy thing. Once again, I heard hopelessness and grief of churches struggling to go on. I heard fear about the UMC’s future.

 I just want to remind all my colleagues that we are called to walk through the dark house each day, a flip some switches. We are called to say, “Did you see what God just did there?” We are called to help others see the light. As we flip switches, we find energy and we find energy in others to try again this day to make the world better. We may see the dangers in our way, but we can also find the ways around them.  Our calling is to help others see the light. Not to just talk about the darkness surrounding us.

So I want to encourage you to flip the switch today. Where do you see God’s light in the world? Where this week has God made a way where one did not exist before. What dangers are you able to face because you have The Light to guide you? We have a sacred calling to flip switches, not to just complain about the darkness.