What? Advent is here? Already?
Editor's note: Today, Florida Conference Connection begins posting a series of original reflections written by clergy and lay members of the Florida Conference. Look for a new post each Sunday of the Advent season.
Rev. Ron McCreary
Jesus, you’ve got to be kidding …
There just isn’t time for you to come now. Don’t you know what time of the year it is? The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are just insane. There are decorations to put up, a house to clean for guests, children’s programs to attend, guest lists to make, invitations to accept or decline, Christmas letters to write, extra choir performances and rehearsals to deal with. Just look at my calendar. Look what you’ve done to us already! There’s just no time to get ready for you to come now. Talk to me in February sometime.
In the days to come the mountain of the LORD's house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will go and say,
"Come, let's go up to the LORD's mountain,
to the house of Jacob's God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God's paths."
Instruction will come from Zion;
the LORD's word from Jerusalem.
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
Wait, what? Really? I can hardly remember a Christmas holiday when there wasn’t a war of some kind going on, taking our young people away from their families for the holidays, returning them burned out and damaged and empty, or dead. Settling disputes between the nations? Turning weapons of war into tools for feeding people? I can go for that. Have at it.
But meanwhile I still have the holiday stuff to do. My family and friends count on me. You know that. You like family and friendships, right? So you take care of the big stuff, Lord, and I’ll take care of my family and friends. Deal?
So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God's glory… There will be a root of Jesse, who will also rise to rule the Gentiles. The Gentiles will place their hope in him. (Romans 15:7,12)
Welcome… wait a minute. Gentiles? You mean immigrants? People we don’t even know? People who barely even speak English? You’re missing the point, Lord:
“Faithful friends who are dear to us, Gather near to us once more.”* Christmas is for family and friends. Isn’t it?
Are you asking me to trade in a life’s worth of Christmas tradition, my yearly island of fond memory in year after year of heartache and despair, for the sake of folks who aren’t even, well, us? Do you know what that would cost me emotionally, not to mention socially? I don’t think I could do it. What power in earth or heaven could make all that even possible for me?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
* From the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," lyrics by Ralph Blane.
-- Rev. Ron McCreary is senior pastor at Gray Memorial UMC, Tallahassee. Scripture citations were taken from the Common English Bible.