I think we’d all agree there comes a time when we look at all the stuff we’ve accumulated and we either decide to build a bigger barn or face the fact that we’ve accumulated more than we could ever want or need. When that happens, what should we do? Apparently, according to the passage today, building a bigger barn is probably not the best, first choice. I’m not saying we need to give everything away, or pile a mountain of clothing on our beds. But how do we keep from wanting a bigger barn?
When I was in elementary school, my mom arrived to pick me up in a silver Rolls Royce. Every kid ogled the long, elegant swoop of fender, flaring slightly above the back wheel. The impossibly long hood. The flying-lady hood ornament. Giving one last look to those still waiting in the carpool line, I opened the heavy, perfectly machined door and entered the spacious back seat. There was just one catch: Our wrecking-yard Rolls, thanks to Dad, was running on a wrecking-yard Chevrolet engine.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we read about the mother of the yet-to-be-born Jesus, rushing from her hometown to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Mary could have been rushing out of obedience to the angel who informed her of the incredible mission of carrying the Messiah. Or Mary could have been fleeing her small hometown out of fear of reprisal from family, friends, and neighbors who would certainly judge her in the coming months for being pregnant and unwed. But I’d like to think that Mary’s haste was primarily out of love.
What kind of preparation would be required when God shows up to announce the good news that he is the rightful Lord of this world and that he is about to make everything right? Surely that would be the most momentous event in human history. Who would be God’s “advance team” to get people ready? What would they do to prepare people for God’s coming? How would they go about their work?
Joy is not so much meant for the good times as it is for the tumultuous times. This genuine joy does not deny the existence of pain, heartache, and loss, but it also acknowledges the strength of our God to heal, mend, and restore. Joy must be engaged and actively adopted. The season of Advent is about the arrival of the Savior and the joy he brings to the nations in the midst of our darkest hours.
This feeling of chaos, hopelessness, and utter despair was the mood du jour for the people of God at the time of the events that unfolded in today’s scripture. The first verse and the beginning of the second verse remind us that the rulers of the day were heavy-handed, tough-minded, and corrupt. It was into this cultural moment that John predicted the arrival of the Messiah, one who would usher in peace at just the right time.
It would seem that today, many people pray without understanding the proper posture, purpose, and potential power that can be released as a result of an effective prayer life. For many, prayer has become a routine and sometimes mindless exercise in which we engage God only when we need help or when we are asking for something. There is so much that is forsaken when we neglect to embrace prayer as the intimate exchange between a Sovereign Father and his beloved children.
The disciples are found arguing about success in Luke’s story. Even though they don’t seem to be arguing specifically over money, Jesus warns his disciples about seeking power and position as a definition of success. Instead, he says to focus on humbly serving others as an act of being united with his work and ministry… We should find our joy not in our accomplishments for God but in our identity with God.
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.
A child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well.