Advent is here, friends. Today, my little family will be putting together the sad Christmas tree that has endeared itself to us over the years. We might put some greenery on the mantle. Drink some hot cocoa. We’ve even got an Advent playlist with about a half-dozen versions of O Come, O Come Emmanuel on it.
It’s New Years Day as far as the church is concerned, so let’s celebrate!
This morning in church, the Thanksgiving baskets our church distributed last week in our community were mentioned and thanks were given to everyone who donated. This morning in church, we were told about the work the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is doing overseas and we were encouraged to give to the annual Christmas missions offering. This morning in church, I was handed a packet of paper with information about a low-income family in our community, a family our Sunday school class will be providing gifts for this holiday season. This morning in church, we were reminded about the myriad activities we’ve got going on throughout Advent and Christmas, the ways we can participate and give and do lots of good.
My point is this: we are doing lots of good in the world. Let’s take a moment and pat ourselves on the back, shall we?
Like I’m letting us off the hook that easy.
Sure, we are doing lots of good. We are. I am. You probably are, too.
But since it’s the first Sunday of Advent, and it’s kind of Texas Schmexas tradition to toss a little guilt in to start off the year, let’s be introspective for a moment and ‘fess up.
We aren't really loving our neighbors as ourselves.*
We may be doing good by sending money overseas to provide livestock and training for villagers, supporting children in poverty through really awesome nonprofits, and supporting our friends who are missionaries. We may be doing good when we bring canned goods to our churches for food drives, teach Bible studies, sing on the praise team, or volunteer to work in the nursery. We may be doing some good by writing to our senators, being educated citizens, and voting. We may be doing some good by writing blog posts that inspire people to do good work in the world.
I’m hesitant to say that I think that’s enough. That’s not the gospel.
Not when we say we believe that the second greatest commandment–in the whole world! the universe! of all time! for infinity!–is to love our neighbors as ourselves.
How do you love yourself? How do you love your family?
In other words, how did your Thanksgiving feast compare to the Thanksgiving baskets your church gave out last week?
How will your kids’ Christmas mornings compare with the Christmas morning of those kids in that family your Sunday school class adopted?
I don’t like these questions. They make me realize that I say a lot of things, but I don’t do a lot of things.
I am really good at making excuses, especially about how busy I am caring for my nineteen-month-old. About how I’m not really at a time in my life where I have much extra to offer to people outside my home (cf. nineteen-month-old comment). About how I am already involved in the work of the church, for cryin’ out loud. I teach! I serve! I offer my gifts! That should count for something!
I’m not saying these aren’t good excuses.
And maybe they are adequate for me. For right now. For today.
But I don’t want to let myself off the hook, and neither should you.
Are you being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world?
Are you using your gifts where they are most needed?
In the real world? With real people? In your real community?
Do you live in a little town where offering four hours of your time once a month would be the difference between a dozen women and children being off the street or on the street? I know some of you do.
And for those of you who don’t–or think you don’t–I’d guess you’re wrong.
I am guessing that your town, your neighborhood, your community has lots of ministries, nonprofits, and volunteer organizations that would beg to differ.
So, as we head into Advent, think on it, my friends.
What excuses are you making? ________________________ *If some of this post sounds familiar, it's because nearly half of it was posted last December 1, as we headed into Advent last year. It was a message I needed to hear then, and it's a message I need today. Maybe you do, too.