Not to scandalize you, but there is a sacrilegious joke I want to tell you: Not to shock you, but to redeem its punch line.
The joke, which is a riff on end-time Christianity, goes like this: “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” It’s not a great joke, but I think it has a truth that can bless us. Jesus is coming. Look busy – or, better yet, get busy. Get to work doing what Jesus wants us to do to make this world welcome for him –and for us all.
That is what Advent is all about. Advent is a season of preparation to make the way ready for the King of kings and Lord of lords. If only I was as intentional about doing that as Home Depot is.
The first Christmas items appeared at Home Depot before Labor Day. Go in there today and you’ll find the place plastered with poinsettias and home decorations and artificial trees and on and on and on.
If I was as serious about making Jesus welcome as Home Depot is about making a buck, my faith would really move mountains.
The journalist Nicholas Kristof has an annual column about alternative Christmas giving. This year he touted a project called Cure Blindness, which offers cataract surgery for poor people in Asia and Africa. $50 will restore a person’s sight.
Another organization Campaign for Female Education seeks to get African girls in school – and out of child marriages. $150 will educate a girl for one year in high school. $30 will cover a year of elementary school. This program has enabled 157,000 young African women to get their education and to pay it forward because each graduate mentors and sponsors another girl. Talk about changing the world!
Yes, there is only one Savior of the world. But, by the grace of God, it is amazing what we can do to help in that saving work. The Youth Service Bureau’s Project ReinDEAR, the local CASA program, sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Think of all the wonderful ways we can be about the Lord’s work by making things just a little bit more right and good and just and loving.
See if you can include some alternative Christmas gifts in your gifting this year. Instead of another sweater, Uncle Harold might really like a Heifer Project duck. Cousin Mary might appreciate a gift being given in her name – rather than receiving a gift herself. Try it and see how that changes the feel and meaning of Christmas for you – for good.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a poisonous political climate. All of that can make us feel pretty powerless. After all, none of us is going to come up the cure for Covid-19. But we can wear a mask and practice social distancing while we wait for the vaccine to arrive, which thankfully is on its way. Doing what we can do while we wait is a God-given power all of us have.
And that is what God wants us to do while we wait for God’s kingdom to come in full: We are to anticipate that reality, which only God can bring, by doing those things, which only we can do. As we do what is within our power to do, we prepare the way and hasten that day when our Savior fully reigns; when righteousness is truly at home; when this tired, old universe and sin-sick world are transformed into a new heavens and a new earth.
If you think that our power to prepare the way for something that big is just a lot of hype, then you have a bunch of geophysicists who will disagree with you. During the lock down earlier this year when we all stayed home, geologists who monitor tremors and watch for earthquakes reported that the lock down actually decreased the amount of surface tremor for the entire planet. Turns out that when 7 billion people do something small, it adds up to something that is pretty big.
Don’t underestimate what God can and will do in and through you. Your actions have consequences. And when you act with God, eternally powerful things happen. Getting sober. Forgiving an enemy. Burying a grudge. Mentoring a child. Living with hope. Sharing in love. These gospel acts are the basic building blocks of the Kingdom of God.
So, don’t just spend this month getting ready for Christmas. Get ready for your Savior. Welcome him. Don’t wait passively. Do what you can – where you are – as the Lord leads you.
As you do, you will welcome Christ into your life, which shall be blessed, and into the world, which shall be changed. Let us prepare the way.