Trusting, even in the mess…

h

The world is feeling kind of dark and messy right now. The shootings in Connecticut continue to be on most people’s minds. Our hearts are filled with sorrow for the loss of life, for the hurt that has been perpetrated against people who did not deserve it. There are no easy answers about this situation. There is no way to heal quickly.

But I keep thinking about what Matt Chandler said at the Catalyst conference this year: “God works in the mess.” Please hear me: I am not say that God caused this mess, or wanted it to happen. I do not believe that God has any part in the violent and horrible death of children.

But I also do not believe that God is simply absent when things get ugly in our world. I believe God is present. I believe that God works in the mess.

I believe this because of the way that Jesus was born. It was…kind of a mess! Mary is unexpectedly pregnant and Joseph wants to break the engagement (because even those days, when your fiance becomes pregnant before you’ve slept with her, “Hey, it must have been the Holy Spirit!” is never your first thought).

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:18-21 NLT

Joseph could have taken the easy way out. And I bet, even after the Angel came to him in a dream, there were times he wished he had. But instead, he chose to trust God. Even in the midst of this messy, socially awkward situation, he chose to trust God.

And he got to help raise up the savior of the world.

It’s not always easy to put our trust in God. Especially when everything seems like a total mess. But I think when we fail to do that – we miss out. We miss out on what God has planned, and His plans are always better than we could dream.

Mary and the angel…

h

In 12 days it will be Christmas Eve. I hope you are on your way to ready, if not completely prepared yet. Personally, I am just about finished with my preparations. I have a few gifts that I am waiting for them to arrive in the mail. And I have a lot of wrapping, some mailing and a little grocery shopping to do. But that’s it. And I am pleased.

I think the time has come to make the turn from waiting for the birth to telling the story of the birth in this Advent Calendar blog project. I love the story of Jesus’ birth. I love all the details and the way it came together. So I want to take my time with this story, to tell it slowly over the next 12 days.

Let’s begin!

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Luke 1:26-33 NLT

When I was a child, this part of the story scared me. I mean, I understood that God is love and that therefore one might expect that God’s messenger would be loving as well. But I was terrified at the idea of an Angel waking me up in the middle of the night. I didn’t want God sending me any messengers. The thought just scared me.

So I love that Luke says that Mary was confused and disturbed. I bet she was! I would be too, if this happened to me.

But I as I grew up I began to understand that somehow Mary had courage even in the midst of being confused and disturbed. That somehow, this messenger was welcome, even in the midst of her fear. Maybe because his words are so good. His message is one of hope and joy and the absolute confirmation of God’s love for Mary.

Maybe because angels – who have been in the presence of God – have a calming way about them.

Or maybe because Mary already had faith in God, she already lived with peace in her heart – peace that passes understanding. Peace that her son would bring into the world and share with all who chose to follow Him.

 

 

(PS…it is really, really hard to find non-cheesy angel images!)

To show it what it can be…

In my last post I mentioned that I would be leading OMEGA contemporary worship at my church on Sunday. I did that. And in my sermon I used a Joss Whedon quote from an episode of the TV show, Angel.

Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be.  It’s harsh and cruel.
That’s why there’s us. Champions.
It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered,
or even if we make a difference.
We live as though the world were as it should be,
to show it what it can be.
–Angel, “Deep Down” Season 4, Episode 1

Now I hate to quote my own sermons (feels a little too much like tooting my own horn, or patting myself on the back or something), but I have to admit, I’ve been wandering around for the past few days muttering to myself: “to show it what it can be…”

I am fascinated by the idea that, as Christians, we are called to live differently. To live as if the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be. This is, I believe, why my church’s foodbank doesn’t put any restrictions on its clients. If you show up, we will give you food. We don’t ask how many foodbanks you’ve been to in the month, when you were last here, how much of an income you have or how many mouths you have to feed. We just give away what we’ve got. Because the world SHOULD be a place where only those who are honestly in need, show up for a hand out. We live as though the world is as it should be. We do this because we believe that world CAN be a place where people are honest.

I think this idea has power. That perhaps a whole bunch of people who live as if the world were as it should be, can actually move it towards what it can be. That somehow, by the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us, just by living the way Jesus calls us to live, we can have an impact on the world we live in.

I believe that. I believe that strongly enough that I have given my life to doing all I can to live that way and to inspire others to live that way.

Give it a try this week. May you find ways to live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.