A love letter to the weary watchers this Advent.

Dear you, dear me, dear weary world, dear us standing together—

When I was growing up, I didn't know anything about the Liturgical Year. We attended a small Pentecostal church with rusty red carpet and green pews and a hefty pastor and my parents were not well versed in the church calendar. I knew about Daniel and the lion's den, Esther becoming queen, the prodigal son, and how one time Jesus made a cocktail of spit and dirt and rubbed it in the eyes of a blind man to give him back his sight.

I knew about the highlights. Christmas and Good Friday and Easter and that one Sunday every year when people got really wild and waved palm branches around (that especially embarrassed me). Lent was a time when some people decided to give up chocolate for 40 days, but in the end they just felt like losers, because who could really make it 40 days without chocolate? I knew nothing of Epiphany or Advent or the strings of ordinary time that held them together.

As an adult, I grow more appreciative of the intricacy of the Liturgical calendar with each passing year. This year, Advent, in particular, has opened me up to a kind of awe and wonder that I've scarcely ever felt. And it has broken me wide open to an unbridled longing.

 

Aleppo.

Orlando.

Bombs, bullets, all the bullets.

"The gunman was..."

Riots.

Planes falling out of the clear blue sky.

Attacks.

"I moved on her like a bitch..."

Townville, South Carolina—all of fifteen minutes away.

Haunted.

#BlackLivesMatter

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes.

 

The earth is quaking and we can't stand by any longer and pretend like the storms are happening somewhere out there. They're inside of us.

Job loss.

Financial crisis.

Crumbling marriages.

Addiction.

Loneliness.

Disease.

Numb the pain.

Gossip.

Betrayal.

All this loss.

 

And buried somewhere underneath the rubble—the realization that this world is not our home. I knock unrelenting on heaven's door, pleading.

Where are you? 

Have you left us? 

 

My soul yearns.

And then.

A thrill of hope. 

At just the right time.

Our King has come. 

Emmanuel, God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all time in the most unexpected package.

At some point, I remember learning that the people with the palm branches in The Bible had the wrong idea about Jesus. They thought he would save them from Caesar, when really, he came to save them from their sin.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother—and in his name, all oppression shall cease. 

He weeps for them. 

Perhaps there are a handful who know, somehow, somewhere in their souls that nothing would ever be the same again.

He didn't come to make us comfortable. Rather, that in our brokenness, we could be comforted. A holy God saw brokenness as being such an integral part of the human experience that he could not go another moment without putting skin in the game. Jesus didn’t come so that we could climb some corporate ladder or hit it big or simply make ends meet or just do okay or feel high and mighty about our stance on gun control and who can use what bathroom. He didn't come for us to experience the same old stuff on a different day. He didn’t give his life so that we could walk around with the prerecorded response of busy or fine. 

He came to become a casualty, to be cast aside, to be spit upon and mocked and denied and sold out and it didn't have to be this way. He took upon himself the punishment that we had coming to us—rescuing us from what we surely deserved.

He came to make Love great again.

We know. We know. 

And then he asked us to give our lives as evidence.

"Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Whoever is willing to live in this holy, painful tension—whoever is willing to take up his own cross, to let go of dreams and plans and security and bucket lists in order to be poured out alongside me. 

We are broken, and we are broken for each other. We are poured out, and we are poured out for each other. This is the way of the beloved, the way of being transformed to the image of Christ, whose body was broken and poured out for us.

We can be the Aaron's and Hur's, holding one another up. We can be a generation of Esther's who are willing to risk it all to tear down the wall so that all might come in. We can be the peacemakers, the prayer warriors, the 2:00 AM answer on the other end of the phone, the lasagna bringers, the roof rippers, the second mile journeyers, the quiet revolutionaries going about the Father's business.

We can be poured out, because we know that he always gives more

We are the hearts preparing him room, the hearts who know that he doesn't come in alone, but rather with a host of broken hearts. He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. He says they're with me. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

We're with him when we stand up for the least and loneliest and the left out—we're the ones who know that when we give the shirts off our backs, we're giving to him.

We keep both eyes fixed, not in idle wait, but active watching for what we know is on the horizon.  And we must not grow weary. For at the proper time—at just the right time, harvest season will come. The weary world will rejoice and all will be made well. 

Jesus, keep us until that day comes.

So be it.

If You're Running on Empty This Season.

It is December: the season of list making and last minutes, the season of doing and buying and running and trimming. And so often, in our haste to do and buy and run and trim, we trim the margin out of our souls, our resources. We run the risk of running out -- cut down to the quick, we bleed. We're quick to reach the point where we just want to make it through the season unscathed. We dread the thought of having to see that family member, being asked to direct the children's play at church, being asked to bring dessert to the office party. We dread the thought of being alone again and being asked when we're going to bring that special someone home to meet our loved (or, at least tolerated) ones.  But we push through, for appearance's sake.

Its easy to hang a lot of lights and give no thought to the Light. 

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In one of my Old Testament classes in college, I wrote a paper on prophesies foretelling the coming of the Messiah. What I found to be so remarkable as I was doing my research is that the promise of a Savior is made from the very beginning. As soon as sin entered the world, Father God began whispering a way for us to return to Him. Cover to cover, scripture is the story of a Creator who desires to woo His beloved creation. Centuries before the virgin gave birth, redemption was being proclaimed:

For unto us, a child is born; unto us, a son is given.  And the government will be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {Isaiah 6:9}

For any number of reasons, the holidays can be difficult. We find our Twitter feeds full of gift giving ideas, but also full of the heart cry of a weary world in need of a Savior. Night before last, I found myself sobbing at my own family's brokenness as I drove home from my dad's house in North Carolina. The familiar anger and bitterness towards my mother crept up on me once again, seemingly out of nowhere, eight years after she walked out the door of our home and shut the door of her heart to my dad. She has been with many men since then, and he has stayed faithful to his vows, in spite of his struggles to pay the bills and keep the cupboards stocked since she left.

And my siblings, who have run the gamut of poor choices -- leaving home to flirt and experiment with the world, sneaking back only to steal money from the change jar so that they can afford to turn on their electricity.

So yeah, Christmas this year is going to be hard. The pain weighs in heavily. But the truth is, the mercy of the Lord is soft -- His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

The truth is that our God never changes -- He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

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He is still the Redeemer who spoke truth to the woman at the well, the Father who never stopped waiting for the return of the prodigal. He still reaches out to calm the crashing waves, the tsunamis that rage through our hurting and hungry souls. He is still the conquering Savior who came to life three days after being crucified and buried. He is still the Provider who multiplies fish and loaves and fills every last jar with oil.

And He sees us. The promise is that when we search for Him, we will find Him. When we remain in Him, anything we ask will be done for us.

He keeps His promises. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. Our hearts must simply make room for Him.