Advent 10

Remember the movie, A Few Good Men, and the Jack Nicholson line, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth?” Well to some extent Jack was right, although not about what he was talking about in the movie.

We all say we want the truth no matter what the consequences, but we want only what we want to hear. If a doctor is telling us we need to change our habits, we tend not to want to hear that we have to give up oatmeal raisin cookies or something else. There are so many other ways we either hear or know through our own conscience that we need to do things differently, but we can’t “handle the truth.”
Well Advent offers us a time to begin again — to handle the truth. We are also called to speak the truth, not just what people want to hear. In so doing we become prophets of the hope of Advent.
During Advent we begin again to handle the truth about ourselves, and speak the truth about God through our words and deeds.

Advent 9

In the first chapters of Luke we learn about the angel Gabriel bringing the message of hope to two unlikely couples. The first couple is Elizabeth and Zechariah — good people but getting on in years and Elizabeth was barren. (Luke 1:5-7). Gabriel says they will have a son John who will “turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to make ready a people for the Lord.”

Gabriel later tells an even more unlikely couple that they also will have a son. The couple are not even married and Mary is a virgin.
Gabriel reminds us that God brings hope to the most unlikely people and places. I have been in some very unlikely places, I bet you have as well, and yet there was always hope. Advent is all about God brings hope and a new life where there is emptiness and hopelessness.
During this week we will explore the hope of Advent, and so we begin by asking ourselves three questions: 1.) Have you ever felt like Elizabeth or Zechariah because of emptiness or loss. 2.) Who has brought you hope like Gabriel? 3.) Have you ever played the role of Gabriel in another’s life?

Advent 8

A few last thoughts on giving and receiving, as I frantically scour the Internet for the perfect last gift.

Despite my desire to find that perfect gift, I know in my heart that the best gifts are simple, come from the heart, and can come from anyone. No better example of this is to watch a young child open the perfect present from grandfather, one he searched high and low for and spent way too much money. The child opens the package, discards the gift immediately, and starts playing with the ribbon or the torn up box. The child in effect gives the grandfather a gift in humility and what’s really important.
Giving and receiving during Advent transforms both the giver and the receiver. For the giver, we learn that even the smallest of gifts or service bring the hope of the season, and for the receiver our willingness to receive and our gratitude for the gift bring joy and hope  to the giver.
During this season we all have the opportunity to play both roles, and in so doing we spread hope and joy to the whole world. Even the most humble gift transforms those around us.
Finally, it is not just during Advent that we can be the servant or the receiver. On any day, at any moment, we can give of ourselves and receive the gifts of others. We also realize that their is no gift too small, too insignificant or too minor. God began on Christmas day by giving the world a small and helpless child. Look what that gift turned out to be.

Advent 7

“because there was no place for them in the inn.” — Luke 2:7

For many of us Christmas meant coming home. When I was a boy, my mother and her sisters along with their husbands and children would head to Memphis for Christmas to be with Grandfather and Grandmother Erwin. When I was in college and until I was married, I came home for Christmas no matter where I was. We were always fortunate. There was always a home to come home to, presents under a tree, and a wonderful meal, or two, or three. I think for most of the readers of the Pew we have always had a home, or a place we can call home. My Dad used to tell stories about if he didn’t make it home by a certain time at night, he had to sleep on the porch, but there was always a home porch to sleep on.
Last night Suzy and I and a group of friends heard a very compelling overview of the homeless situation in Charlotte and Charlotte Urban Ministries, after listening we’re all ready to help! Here in Charlotte, as it is all over the country, homelessness is a major problem, and especially during Advent we should not forget the words, “there was no place for them in the inn.”
I mentioned giving to strangers yesterday. Consider in Advent remembering the homeless in your prayers and your generosity. When you buy those last minute stocking stuffers, consider buying a warm pair of socks and delivering them to your cities equivalent of Urban Ministries. When you give out envelopes to your mail carrier and hairdresser, consider a small donation. Most importantly as your heart grows and grows in this time of joy and celebration, consider reserving a small “place” in your heart for a man, woman, or child who sleeps in the cold on Christmas night.
Y’all know I get sappy watching Christmas movies. One of my favorites is the “Bishop’s wife” and I can’t hold back the water when at the very end of the movie the Bishop giving the sermon comes to the part where he reminds us to hang a stocking for the Christ child. I always put on my Christmas list — comfortable socks. From now on they go to Urban Ministries.