Friday, November 26, 2010

The Arrival of Advent in the Storm

Advent comes to us from God, in the midst of our trouble.

The word Advent, from Latin, means “arrival,” the arrival of hope in the midst of despair.

Think of the horrific times that Joseph and Mary lived in. And consider many peoples’ tragic struggles now today in Syria, Haiti, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Congo, and Afghanistan.

Think of the young child with cancer, the elderly ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease...

Lying in bed day after day, staring at the ceiling, elsewhere...

Or stooped over stuck in a row of wheelchairs in a blank hall...

Wasting away, their memory gone

Yes, the storm of wrong, tragedy, and despair seems endless.

Our own bad experiences, probably, are slight in comparison. But all hurt hurts, does it not? What about the last time events blindsided you and things even seemed hopeless?

About a month ago, I faced relatively rough circumstances, one more challenging day in a slew of them. I was alone and hurting so I turned on Christian radio seeking inspiration and comfort--But tragically,
the minster was preaching,

"...all humans are without value, valueless."

Like a cancer cell, he kept repeating, expanding on his point, kept emphasizing these wretchedly wrong words—"humans are valueless, worth nothing."

According to him, God only loves a few chosen of us humans.

Another famous minister of a church in Oregon with many thousands of members even proclaimed that God created some of us humans as "toilets."

And God has created other humans as "spittoons."

And this horrific God, allegedly, does this all for his own glory!

Very angrily, I snapped off the radio both times, devastated, grieved, and despairing more than before.

When we humans suffer, we need good news, not deterministic, fatalistic despair, not being told we are worthless and depraved.

In wondrous contrast, the verses of Titus 2:11-14 in the New Testament give us the glad tidings of God’s love for everyone. Despite the worst that existence does to us, the blessed words speak comfort to our despairing hearts:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”

Isn’t that last word glorious? The Good News to Mary, then to Joseph and outward from there, not limited to a certain few, but to all creation. These precious words “arrive” telling us about the incarnation—how God loves us even at our worst and isn’t willing for anyone to perish. Yes, even the natural world will eventually be redeemed.

And not only do these words of wonder bring us loving kindness now, they train us to renounce impiety and wrongful passions. They give us practical guidance and strategies of how to face our daily struggles and hard times. They give us a living blessed hope for the future.

Consider this humorous but insightful story.*

In the current severe recession, a door-to-door salesperson walked up to one more elegant house, pushed the button and waited to share his product. When the door opened, a gruff man grimaced, and said, “No we don’t want any” and shut the door.

Not discouraged, the salesperson came back the next week. This time when the door opened, the occupant cursed at him and slammed the door.

When the third week came and the salesperson walked up to the door and rang the bell, the antagonistic man raised a fist and spit in his face!

The salesperson pulled out a handkerchief, wiped his nose and eye, then looked up at the clear sky and said, “It must be raining.”

Think about it. If we had been that salesperson, we might have gone away disheartened, or angry at the man’s rudeness or disappointed, wondering why our product wasn’t of value to the customer or why he personally disliked us.

Have you been hurt lately by thoughtless words, or snippy gossip? Even been cursed out lately? Falsely accused?

How did you respond? How are you responding?

The salesperson in the spiritual parable (from a Jewish rabbi) doesn’t live in his or her circumstances, even of the spitting variety. He remembers the “worldwide company” he belongs to, is thankful he will never be fired.

No, she isn’t judged by the depressed economy, or by her success, or by how little or much money she makes...On the contrary, he is aware that his “boss” highly values him for himself alone.

This salesperson hopes that everyone will benefit from his/her product—“the love of God.” He has seen by hope the future and trusts that Truth and Love and Faith are eternally true.

So when he is spit upon, he doesn't take it personally, but thinks of dreary rain and its benefit.

Has it been raining—even hurricaning--on you today;-)?

Look up to the blessed hope of the Advent.

Dear Father, We thank you that You are the God of all comfort for everyone, that your love extends to all as the famous gospel song* sings,

“Could we with ink the ocean fill…
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry.”

Please help us today to remember that when negative circumstances attack us, we can “reign” over them in You.

Thought for the day: When bad storms rain, God’s love pours, reigning over all for all.

*Paraphrased from Mitch Albom’s book Have a Little Faith

*Frederick M. Lehman, “The Love of God”

May you experience the love of God,

Daniel Wilcox