Advent, Apologies, and Joy

I have never experienced Advent in the way that I am experiencing it this year.

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to seeing my children return from their first semester at Baylor University – TOMORROW (God, weather, and roads willing).  To be a little cheesy, this mama bear is ready to have her cubs around for longer that 48 hours.  I am so proud of them, and I feel that we have all adjusted as well as we could have given the apple cart upsetting that we experienced in August.  I look forward to some relaxing times with them in our old stomping grounds of Minneapolis as well as our new home in Bismarck.  The time between Thanksgiving and today has dragged along, but I am sure that the next four weeks will fly by.  *sigh*

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to the end of our first semester at the University of Mary.  Seriously – wow! We have really changed our ministry focus and have loved every minute with the students here. This unique experience as Protestants in a committed Catholic environment has stretched and grown us in ways that we did not know could happen.  The dialogues that we have had with students and faculty have been amazing.  As I see it, we are here for two purposes: to be in dialogue with brothers and sisters from other denominations and to provide ministry in the Protestant traditions for those students and staff of those traditions.  This is transformational – can you imagine a Protestant university hiring a Catholic priest to minister on that Protestant campus? I am still in shock and so grateful.  I am really digging our new gig.

Advent is a time of reflection as we await the arrival of the Christ child.  In my reflecting, I have realized that sometimes I hit “publish” on my blog posts without thinking it all through.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about this new call on our lives, and I need to share an apology – or maybe just a clarification.  In the post, I wrote about sitting in Mass one Sunday evening and thinking that I am not “here” for the Catholic students sitting around me in the service.  After I hit publish and shared the post on Facebook, one of the Catholic students whom I would count as a dear friend made a comment.  It was not her comment that made me reflect but just the fact that she and I are in fellowship that forced me to re-think my words.  Who am I to limit God’s call on my life?  I am  here to minister to whomever and with whomever God brings into my life. We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love any who comes into our lives, and to share the love of Jesus with whomever will listen.  So – I’m sorry. Deeply sorry.

Two days ago was the Advent Sunday of Joy.  My college English writing students who paid attention enough to know that we do not capitalize words without reason to do so would be upset that I wrote Joy instead of joy; however, it just seems like joy should be capitalized this week.  Maybe I should shout it – JOY (by the way, to those who follow me on Facebook, that lady is still sending me emails in all caps.  Seriously.).

JOY! Yes, this Advent week reminds us of the joy that our souls find because of Christ’s arrival on Earth.  As the song says, “No more let sin and sorrows grow.”  With Christ’s arrival on Earth, all of what was known about God’s kingdom was turned upside down and changed forever. Jesus – Messiah – arrived to save us, free us, bless us, and reign in us.  He came that we could live abundantly.

When we look around us, life abundant seems hard to find some days.  Death, divorce, disease, and discord seem to be winning the fight.  We should probably get off of our computers, log out of Facebook accounts, leave our houses, and go find life.  It is out there waiting for us to live in the same way that we wait in Advent.  And the joy that we seek will rarely be found where we think it will be – fame, career, or wealth.  Instead – in the same unexpected way that Jesus – the King – was found in a humble stable, JOY will likely be found in humble ways of serving others and looking beyond our own wants.

Advent reminds us that we remain in waiting for the second coming of Jesus.  All of the discord that we combat by seeking joy will end when Christ returns and reigns forever as King of King and Lord of Lords.  We will wait…and wait…and wait.  While we wait, we will seek joy through service to God through serving others.

Each year at Advent – this year at Advent – let us remember that Christ came so that we could have life.  As we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember that Christ came for a purpose.  As we wait, let us remember that Christ is coming again.  Amen.