My favorite Christmas song is the advent song, “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” And the reason why I find it so beautiful and moving has something to do with its music, but also its lyrics. The lyrics really manage to capture the human condition, as well as the hope for deliverance, a static waiting room, and then the promise that God will come, and make all these things right again.
Essentially: things are not right now, but they will be right.
But this isn’t the way I like things. I want to be better now; I want broken relationships to be fixed now; I want to have answers now; I want to have my circumstances change now. I want my ducks in a row, I want my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted. I want order out of chaos.
And so I usually become impatient because things are not right now. I could wait forever if things were fine. If the waiting room has cable television, good magazines, snacks, and reclining chairs, I could wait all day. I could wait for years.
But usually, waiting involves sitting in uncomfortable chairs. It involves boredom. It involves going without, or being hungry. It involves knowing things could be better, but having to cope with what’s available. It involves discomfort.
The other week I was brooding on this while I was making dinner. I’m a naturally impatient person, and there are all kinds of things in my life that are just a matter of waiting. Waiting for the right time. Waiting for God’s timing. Waiting for the moons to align, maybe. At any rate, it’s not cut and dry, things aren’t put together, those moons haven’t aligned; things are messy.
And since I’m a person who comes from a long line of premature Christmas music listeners, I was listening to some premature Christmas music, and O Come O Come Emmanuel came on. And in my brooding state I thought: “That is all life is; life is waiting. Waiting for something good to happen. And I’m tired of waiting.”
But here’s the catch that I realized pretty much immediately after that thought: Life is not all about waiting. The things in my life that I’m waiting for have ultimately already been taken care of; they’ve been taken care of through the coming of Jesus Christ. We celebrate Advent, but it’s a different kind of Advent than Israel’s waiting for a Savior. Jesus has already come. The end has been determined: It is finished, and it is good.
So while we’re waiting and praying for the messy things in life to sort themselves out, we can at least be assured of this: We’re not waiting for a Savior anymore. Life isn’t a waiting game. Even with all its messes, imperfections and problems, there is no wait.
And even more importantly, Jesus is proof that God will work with me despite the fact that things aren’t all right, and despite the fact that I’m a mess half the time. God didn’t leave us to wait and suffer; he sent us his son. And we find wholeness and comfort in him.
Sunday we started a new series: Joseph’s Wild Grandmothers. We’re taking four weeks to look at four women who appear in the genealogy which begins Matthew’s Gospel. The first is Tamar.
I won’t recount Tamar’s story here (it’s a wild one!). But from the story we learn that God works with messed up people (see Judah). God works through messy people (see Tamar).
And ultimately God works through Tamar to help establish the line of kings for Israel. She’s the Kingmaker, the one who helps transform Judah from selfish jerk to selfless leader.
Happy Monday, everyone, and Happy First-Week-of-Advent! We haven’t done an announcements post in a while, but it seems with the busy-ness of the Christmas season, it might be helpful for you all.
- Christmas Decorating! This coming Saturday (12/1) we’ll be decorating the church from 9 AM until 12PM; breakfast will be provided. Join us!
- Wednesday Night Worship! We’ll be having December’s Wednesday Night Worship next Wednesday (12/5), starting at 7 PM.
- Christmas Invite Cards! We have some new invite cards for our Christmas service (which will be on 12/23, 4PM); pick some up and give them to your friends and family!
Have a great week everyone!
This Sunday, we will wrap up our eight week Choice campaign and celebrate what God has done!
During our usual Sunday service, in lieu of a message we will share short testimonies: testimonies of how God worked in our lives in this campaign through the messages and our small groups.
And after the service we are going to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner together. It’s like a pre-Thanksgiving, thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for.
So join us this week (11/18 4PM) as we share how God has worked in us, and how God has provided for us!
As an English Composition teacher, and as a person who generally likes words, nice sentences, and interesting and clever ways of expressing things, I really dislike idioms. They’re the worst: they think they’re saying something great and profound in simple terms. Instead, they usually actually say something simple and reductive and maybe not even true.
For instance, something like: “The early bird catches the worm,” is supposed to be making a fantastic point somehow. But if someone says this to me when I’m uninterested in getting somewhere early, it doesn’t actually help. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Whatever. They’re not supposed to be saying anything all that fantastic; sure, Ben Franklin invented a lot of them, and they might make sense now and then. But they’ve also become cliches, half-hearted advice, simplistic attempts at understanding larger concepts. I mean, I know what a stitch in time is supposed to mean, I think… well, not really.
Idioms sound nice, they roll off the tongue, but they can actually cause a problem; for instance, nobody likes being told that he/she is being tolerated because we need to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” for a couple reasons. It sounds cute, but it can be offensive in many different contexts.
Similarly, a phrase that one of our guests from River of Life Church on Sunday mentioned that ended up being a hang up for her was the idea of “letting it go.” This resonated with me: all my life, it’s been about telling myself things that might have upset me were “no big deal,” and that I needed to “let it go.” And I guess in some circumstances, that’s fine. I needed to let it go when one of my siblings got to use the bathroom first, or ate the rest of the cereal, and I need to let it go when my dog eats a book, or my husband leaves stuff on the counter; these things really aren’t big deals that need to be forgiven. But the problem with this idiom is that we tend to use it to replace forgiveness.
To replace “forgiveness” with “let it go” is pretty bad.
It waters things down: To conflate forgiveness with letting it go is to turn something active into something passive, and by doing that, nothing happens. To forgive is to do something; it is not a letting go, it’s a release (see this earlier blog post on the steps of forgiveness), and an active breaking of bonds.When Jesus died on the cross, he was actively taking our place and God was actively working through him for our sake. There’s absolutely nothing passive about that.
It minimizes sin: To conflate forgiveness with lettting it go makes sin into something that’s not so bad. Or worse, something to be set free, like doves at a wedding or something. Sin is pretty bad, and it isn’t just something we can let go of: it involves hurt, it leads to death, it’s destructive. It would be like releasing rabid wolves at the wedding instead.
It doesn’t work: If we need to learn anything from Christianity, it’s that we cannot take care of or let go of sin; that’s the message, in so many words. If we could just “let go” of things, sin probably wouldn’t be such a big problem. In the same way that we wouldn’t want to sin if it wasn’t a real thing, we wouldn’t need to let anything go, either. It wouldn’t cross our minds. But we’re not fine, and we’re broken, both by sins we’ve committed, and by sins people have committed against us.
And if we truly want to be more like Christ, then we need to model ourselves after him; he didn’t let things go. He loved us and died for us because of sin, and God forgave us. So we need to follow his example:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.