Anticipating Advent

I’ll admit it.  In the past I have been somewhat of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas.  My scroogeness was born out of all the trendy things to dislike Christmas for: over-commerclization, consumerism, Christmas cards, untangling lights to put on a tree, and mall parking lots.  I was a part of the crowd shouting to focus on ourselves on the meaning of Christmas.  Not the FoxNews crowd, but the cool – but not hipster cool – Christians who wanted nothing but Jesus and the incarnation at Christmas.

And then I had a child.

It is hard to be a scrooge when your two and a half year old is enamored by the entire season.  Luke, in a way that is capturing my imagination, is eagerly anticipating Christmas morning.  But not for the reasons most would expect.  At the beginning of Advent we gave Luke a nativity scene he could play with.  And play he has!  It is almost a daily activity to have conversations with the different figures.  I am usually the angel and he is Mary and I have to tell her she will have a child.

After explaining all the different figures, we took the baby and wrapped him in a present and placed him under the tree.  If you ask Luke if he excited for Christmas he will tell you he is.  And the reason?

“We get to unwrap baby Jesus!”

I dare you to be a scrooge in the face of that.

But it has me wondering, “Do we all anticipate Christmas morning with that level of expectation?”  The mystery of the incarnation of the Word should stir our hearts and minds.  The Christ child changes everything.  In putting on flesh and dwelling among us, God affirms his declaration that the creation is “very good.”  If the creation is very good, then that means eating is good, drinking is good, hugging is good, laughter is good, singing songs is good, giving gifts out of love is good…Christmas is very good.

But I wonder, have we been caught focusing on the past?  Has our celebration of the incarnation taken away from our anticipation for the future?

Reading the Old Testament prophets reveals an expectation that the Messiah would usher in the Kingdom of God.  They used pictures like beating swords into plowshares and everyone resting in the shade of their own fig tree (Isaiah 2 and Micah 4).  Redemption and restoration were common themes in their hope for the future.  Paul picked up on this in Philippians 3 when he anticipates the day in which are lowly bodies are transformed into a body like the glorious resurrected body of Jesus.  John shared the hope of the Old Testament prophets and Paul in his Revelation when he envisions the new heaven and new earth, where “there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”  This is the anticipated coming Kingdom of God.

In Acts 1 the disciples were wondering if Jesus would finally restore the kingdom to Israel.  Jesus proceeded to tell them that the kingdom of coming, but it wouldn’t come like the thought or when they thought, but it was coming.  After he ascended, the angels told the disciples that Jesus would one day return and at that time the kingdom would be established.  Many debate when that will be and what it will look like, but that is a secondary point.  The main point is simple: Jesus is coming back!

There was a first advent, Christmas.  As good as that advent was, there is better, fuller, richer advent, Jesus coming back.

So this Christmas, embrace everything.  Eat good food.  Have deep conversations.  Drink deeply of moments with friends and family.  Give good gifts.  Decorate the house.  Laugh together.  Take pictures.  Celebrate well.  Anticipate goodness.

Because Christ came.

And he is coming.

Advertisements

Have you ever been truly understood?

Check out my guest post at the Faithwalking blog HERE.
I’m also beginning to see how much I assume as a listener.  I assume I understand what the person is trying to communicate.  So I don’t ask follow up questions.  I assume they know that I know what they are talking about and therefore feel heard.  But that assumption is pretty arrogant.  It is pretty arrogant to think that I understand what they are trying to communicate without being clear about it.  And even if I am right about what they are trying to communicate, it is pretty unkind if I don’t show them that I hear them.  This is an area that I have been working on.  I have really been trying to understand people.  My need for ongoing growth really shows up when I vibrate (get anxious).  In one of the spontaneous conversations I had this week I vibrated and went right back to old habits.  I got competitive which means that I listened to attack and defend.
Even in all that, I can honestly say that I am a better listener.  Just a couple weeks ago my wife and I had a couple over to our house.  They had a matter they needed help sorting out and my wife and I were helping them through it.  After the couple left, my wife and I sat in our living room and “debriefed” the conversation.  At the end of our conversation I asked her, “What did you notice about how you and I worked together?”  Her response is still something I am proud of.  She said, “I notice that you ask more questions than before.”

Dream life of Angels

Sometimes poetry allows you to say things more clearly by giving the reader more space. My feeble attempt in describing faith-driven growth.

I want to get up and move                                                                                                more.  The comfort of this                                                                                               couch seems to have shackled                                                                                           me down, not allowing me

to go where I want.                                                                                                                   I struggle against these                                                                                               shackles not for first time,                                                                                                    not for the last, but every day.

I want to get the key                                                                                                                to the shackles, I want                                                                                                      them removed, to get out                                                                                                    and live life, but I’m afraid

my legs will break when I stand                                                                                            for the weight they need to hold                                                                                              is heavy, not changing, constantly                                                                                  forced down by the pull

of an incessant force.                                                                                                        even if I could stand,                                                                                                                 I doubt I could move.                                                                                                            my legs may hold the

unbearable weight, but                                                                                                           to pick them up, balancing                                                                                                    for a brief moment on                                                                                                          just one of them, should surely

cause them to buckle.                                                                                                              I can’t face that, tears roll                                                                                                 down my face, running                                                                                                      from the thought of failure.  I want

that key.  I can see it,                                                                                                                I know what it looks like,                                                                                                      and in my mind,                                                                                                                        I know what it feels like.

I turn away, and look out                                                                                                          a window past myself, past                                                                                                  the consciousness of the shackles.

I am a bird.

I go where I want.                                                                                                             There is no doubt                                                                                                                    in my mind where I will go                                                                                                        I just don’t know where it is.

I don’t really care either                                                                                                             I just want freedom,                                                                                                          going from place to place                                                                                                  flying to get there, watching

the world move below                                                                                                         with nothing to hinder me                                                                                                  here.  I want to open the sky                                                                                               with a key that leads to an adventure                                                                                  and freedom.

I am music.

There are rules so I sound                                                                                                right, so that I resonate with                                                                                                 the one that plays my key.                                                                                                   We become the same and have a

synergy of all other strings played                                                                                          in our key.  I make up the sounds                                                                                          to the dream life of angels.

I am a business man.

The keys to my success are                                                                                               laid out in successive order.                                                                                      Following each one leads                                                                                                       to a satisfying life that doesn’t                                                                                        involve second hand clothing.

I am out of Eden,

shackled to my couch,

ready for life

holding the key.