For Advent this year, I’m writing a group study and daily devotional resource for use at Foothills Christian Church. If you’d like to engage in this journey with us, i’ll post the weekly materials here…For each week of advent, there will be a Bible Study component, 5 daily devotions, and a practical application. Attached is the introduction/prologue. I’d appreciate feedback along the way, and would love to hear stories if you use this in your communities of faith. BLessings!
Willing myself to bypass the tiny Snickers bars, I avert my eyes and hurry around the Trick-or-Treat aisle. Talking heads and leering pumpkins make it hard to avoid. From the silly to the supposedly-scary, it all works to force me into a Halloween place…in early September. No thanks. I’m still processing the fact that it’s back to school time and still 110 degrees outside.
But wait…Blocking my escape looms another display. Not pencils and backpacks. Not another pumpkin-cartoon-character-slutty- kitten explosion. It’s a snowman. No, wait; a snowman ornament. Like, for a Christmas tree. Dozens of them on an endcap, with festive dishes. Sparkly holly and jingle bell stuff every which way. It’s a whole holiday display, just begging me to begin the manic rush a full quarter of a year before the day arrives. Wait.
Seriously…please, just wait.
In Phoenix, September still means triple-digit heat. The absurdity of snowmen against that backdrop points to the heart of just about every social issue facing the Church and world. Is it any wonder that kids are having sex in middle school? We shudder at the thought, but we know it is happening. Far more terrifying than the gory mask displays, our children and youth cannot wait to grow up, and they forfeit childhood a little at a time. No matter how much we may talk to them about patience and virtue, they are systematically enabled by a culture of instant gratification.
Is it any wonder that our spending habits and cheap, easy credit finally caught up with us? To the tune of a national housing and job crisis?
Is it any wonder that urban sprawl destroys our communities and the environment a little more each year?
Is it any wonder that war seems like the only answer, just because it is the swiftest means of getting our way?
It is no wonder that the wait-less nature of the world has reached pandemic proportions. When we can watch/do/tweet/get anything we want, whenever we want, there remains little space at all for wonder, for mystery, for transformation. It is no wonder at all that the spirit of Advent has been destroyed by the September snowman. Abominable, indeed.
The joyful expectation, the hopeful imagining, the watchful waiting of Advent—all dissolve into greeting card sentiment, with no room for Christ to enter the world—let alone our own hearts.
In this season, and at all times, the body of Christ faces difficult conversations. We struggle to speak faithfully about sex, money, war, the environment, our political system, our addictions and patterns of gross consumption. But try as we might, the most difficult word in each of these conversations must also be the first…”wait.”
We might ask, in fact, if there’s any wonder left in ANYTHING. When all of our seasonal comforts dissolve into greeting card sentiment and packaging to be thrown away, there’s no room for Christ to enter the world—much less our lives and hearts.
Many of us believe, however, that there is a great deal of wonder left in the world, in our faith, and even in this season of joyful anticipation. Over the next four weeks we’ll journey together to seek a place of real relationship, meaningful community, and a kingdom kind of transformation. We’ll examine some of the traditions, purchases, and ad campaigns that bring us comfort and joy; and those that leave us feeling depleted and empty come the let-down on December 26. Like, will your house EVER really look like the Pottery Barn catalogue? What would happen if Starbucks ran out of the red snowflake cups; and why do they need sweaters to dress up their gift cards? Who buys that 2-million-dollar fantasy bra from Victoria’s Secret? And where…where would Jesus be staying, if he showed up at your house for the holidays?
We’ll find the wonder along the way, but first…we wait.
Thanks for joining us. It’s cool if you want to play Christmas music in the background along the way. Just not before Thanksgiving, ok? And please, no Celine Dion…
Week I Wait Isaiah 58 1-12
Week II Wilderness Mark 1 1-8
Week III Wonder Luke 1 26-38
Week IV Welcome Luke 2 1-7
Postlude Wise Ones Luke 2 8-20