Sunday, November 27, 2011

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Reinvent Advent (part two)

People scoffed at me for beginning an advent fast before the first official Sunday launching the season. Heck, people scoffed at me for fasting during advent at all. But I confess I consider it their loss, for I am crying out for the Messiah, expecting Him, preparing a place for Him. And what else is advent about?  What could be more important or pressing, especially this time of year?  For surely I have already seen the space that I have set aside being claimed by the Spirit of God.  It is as if, long before I even thought to desire and wait in expectation for Him, He was waiting in expectation, longing for me. And so it was that advent began for me with a Wednesday evening worship service, one that I attended because of a very special offering of amends.

Prepare the way for the Lord...

Interestingly, both the relationship through which that amends came and the service itself were frail and rather unremarkable.  Yet in their simplicity, surely they were ordained to bear Emmanuel. That is what I found in them that night: God With Us.  God with us - in Humility and Repentance. God with us in Promise.  God with us in Confession and Remembering.  God with us in Community, Family, Knowing and Being Known.  Do not mistake me, these were not ideas that were taught that night. They were not notions that were given tribute in words.  These were the things that actually happened while I was there.

And speaking of knowing and being known, in just four short days of celebrating advent, God has already been making things known, making Himself known.  I stumbled across a verse from Acts (2:28):

He has made known the way, the journey...

God has made it clear that He has called me.  There is no mistaking it. There is no talking around it anymore.  There is no doubting it.  He reminded me today that He has called me very specifically to speak vision into the lives of others; to see His story, to hear it, and to speak it so that others might see it, be invited by it, and live into it, too.  His story, it is adventure.  His story, it is life.  His story is freedom, it's love, it's healing.  His story is transformation.  And His story, it is personal.  It is speaking all around us and we are desperate for it. We are dying without it - slow, endless, painful deaths.  If I am called to minister, this is my ministry.  If I am called to preach, this is how I must preach.  I have known this for some time now, but honestly, I forgot.  And do you know why I forgot?  Because I am desperate to hear God's story myself.

He has made known the paths of life...

The very first verse I ever memorized was a prayer from Psalm 25 (4-5):

Teach me your ways, O Lord
show me your paths
guide me in your truths and teach me
for you are God my Savior
and my hope is in you all day long.

Even before the day that I renounced my covenant with death, God began teaching me a new way, a way of life.  That was the only reason I could renounce death.  And in spite of the last two years, He is still teaching me.  This very afternoon I slammed face-first into the fact that I need to be told God's story. I need to hear the narrative that bestows God's meaning - and therefore God - to my experience.  It is the very breath of life.  It is then that I am quickened. It is then that I am stirred.  It is then that I have strength for the journey and love to offer the world.  It is the path of life.

I am not just called, I am in need.

In and with joy, His presence will fill, fulfill, complete...

I need it whispered to me in the dark places. I need to be reminded of it in the light.  For it is when I can hear and see God's story that I can be where He is.  It's not just that I need people to tell me the story that they heard once, the story that they decided to believe.  I don't need the story that they think God is probably telling or should be telling.  I need people to actually listen, listen to the ongoing revelation of God's story in me as well as how it is unfolding in their own lives, as it is manifesting - giving birth to - Emmanuel.  I need them to tell me what they hear and see, lest I miss it, lest I forget, lest I die in need of it even while it is being told all around me.

It dawned on me today that I have experienced this kind of community before in an ongoing nature; I have participated in it, and it fulfilled me. I knew joy once.  But little by little the practice has ebbed, even up to the point that I did not share my testimony this year, as I always do on my anniversary of new life, because somehow I could not hear God's story in it anymore.

How is that even possible?!?

And how is it possible that in four little days of reinventing advent God has already offered so much?

Regardless, on this the first Sunday of Advent, I stand knowing these things full well:

1. I am called to minister, to preach, to speak the vision of God's story to others (and as a sub-text, I know I must be involved in worship through music in the community I serve).

2. With my call comes my own unique need to have others hear and speak God's story to me.  Oh, it's true. I need people.  I need you, my people.  I need God with us.

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