God's Christmas Store
Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid the night before Christmas? Not just the night before but the days leading up to it? What it felt like when you first opened your eyes Christmas morning?
We are excited, joyful, eager to greet the day and of course the presents we hope will greet us!
When I went back to work from being on maternity leave, a colleague asked me how I liked being a new mom. And I remember saying that what was most surprising was how every morning felt like Christmas. Because it was all those same feelings knowing in the other room was this incredible gift waiting for me to unwrap, literally!
We don’t just have that with Christmas or newborns. We have that feeling when anticipating our visit with long-time friends we don't get to see very often. Or when planning our vacations or a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or when we're looking forward to (what we hope) is a once-in-a-lifetime event, like a wedding, where we get to share our joy with people we love.
And the feeling is so good that I think there is a part of us that doesn’t want to ever realize the actuality of what it is we’re waiting for.
The quality of our waiting is our preparing. Waiting with eager longing is different than waiting with anxious anticipation, or harried urgency.
This is what Paul describes later in Romans, "all of creation is waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God."
The people who had gathered at the banks of the Jordan for the baptism of John were eager with longing. They longed for the picture painted by the prophet Isaiah. On that day, they knew the earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord. But, when the religious people show up, the Pharisees and the Saducees, John the Baptist starts in with his warnings.
On that day God's winnowing fork will be in his hand and he will clear the threshing floor – separating the wheat from the chaff which he will burn with unquenchable fire.
John warns all of us to bear fruits worthy of repentance. Does that mean we are supposed to prove ourselves worthy with our good works? Absolutely not! Our salvation is not dependent on our works. The fruits of repentance, the fruits of life with God are actually spelled out for us by Paul!
Just like eager longing is the quality of Advent waiting, the fruits of life with God are a quality of being. In Ephesians Paul writes the fruits of life with God are love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control. The gift of these qualities leads to the fruit of these qualities being born in our midst.
This week, when I was in a mall overwhelmed by all the stuff I had to get, all the stuff I had to choose from, so much stuff, I had a vision. What if God had a store? God had an outlet?
Restoration Hardware - that would be God's store! It would be filled with all the tools we need to equip ourselves to partner with God to be restorers of God’s people – God’s communities – God’s kingdom and dream.
The amazing thing about God’s Restoration Hardware is that when you go in seeking the fruits you need – God provides the tools to get you there. John the Baptist is the greeter, you hand him your list, "Today I really need some joy!" And he points you to the tool you need.
Maybe for some of us – it’s that ax that John mentioned. For us to cut away the stuff in our life that doesn’t give us time to settle in and practice those fruits.
Maybe for some of us – it’s a role of duct tape – that we do this with – and we have to keep quiet until the voice in our head stops talking – and we actually listen without feeling the need to respond.
Maybe for some of us – it’s a table and two chairs – the small kind of table – a dinette I believe it’s called – so that we can sit with someone whose world is entirely different than our own – and have a cup of tea and hear what life is like from their perspective.
Maybe for some of us – it’s a squeegee – so we can go downtown and know what it feels like to have to do that when you’re 14 or 15 or 25 – because your network and your neighborhood simply doesn’t have the resources to equip you the way some of our networks and neighborhoods do.
God’s restoration hardware store would be filled with the most normal, every day objects and we would be divinely inspired to use them for the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness – and self-control that we need that day.
And on that day, we would be the signal to the people, that God dwells among us. The earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord, and it would be glorious! Amen.