This second week of Advent, Paul writes to the church in Rome, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5-7)

Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus to welcome Gentiles or to welcome the people who think, believe, and act differently than they do. So, what does Paul’s instruction mean for you and for your leadership? What difference does welcoming others just as Christ has welcomed you, make in your living and leading? 

We are exploring the distinguishing characteristics of Christ-centered leaders. Along with sharing good news, being mission-focused, developing koinonia, and relating people to their communities, I have added the characteristic of leading with the heart, mind, and work of Christ. 

This week let’s focus on leading with the mind of Jesus. 

Read Philippians 2:5-11 

 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,

           did not regard equality with God

           as something to be grasped,

but emptied himself,

           taking the form of a slave,

           assuming human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human,

he humbled himself

                        and became obedient to the point of death—

                        even death on a cross.

Therefore, God exalted him even more highly

           and gave him the name

           that is above every other name,

so that at the name given to Jesus

           every knee should bend,

           in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

           that Jesus Christ is Lord,

           to the glory of God the Father.

Reflect

Paul is writing to the followers of Jesus in Philippi. He is instructing them on how to live in the midst of a hostile environment. He begins by focusing on Christian conduct in relation to a hostile, unbelieving community. Then he focuses on the Christian conduct within the believing community. It is this conduct that is important for the Christ-centered leader. 

He writes, “If then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. 

The joy of Paul and of the church is “in Christ Jesus,” nourished by their relationship with each other. For clarity he says he has four expressions: being of the same mind (which meant having a common attitude or mission), having the same love; being in full accord, and of one mind. He repeats the call for a common attitude or mission. 

In repeating “the same mind,” Paul is preparing the followers of Jesus for his instruction on what the Christian mindset, attitude, or mission is, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” 

Leading with the Mind of Christ

This attitude or mission is so important, those early Jesus followers made it into a hymn or a statement of faith to be repeated when they gathered. This is part of what it meant in The Acts of the Apostles, “They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles.” By repeating the hymn or statement of faith, they were learning what it meant to be Christian in the world in which they lived. Liturgy was important in learning the faith. 

So, what does that mean for you as a Christ-centered leader? What does it mean to lead with the mind of Christ? To lead with the mind of Christ means: 

Christ-centered leadership focuses on others. 

It is a choice defined and focused on the life and health of the Christian community. Jesus “did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied himself.” Often leadership is viewed as a position, a title, or an office. But to lead with the mind of Christ is to choose to lead from who you are as a follower of Jesus. 

Leadership is not as much about authority as it is about vulnerability. Choosing to act on the behalf of others without personal gain is true leadership. Self-denying service for those entrusted to your care with no claim of return, no eye upon a reward is to lead with the mind of Christ. 

Being Right or Being in a Relationship?

Tom Wiles, while university chaplain at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, purchased a new pickup truck. While the truck was parked in his driveway, his neighbor’s basketball post fell against the truck leaving dents and scrapes on the passenger door. The scratches looked like deep white scars on the new truck’s exterior. A friend noticed the scrapes and asked, “What happened here?”  

Tom replied with a downcast voice, “My neighbor’s basketball post fell and left those dents. I asked him about it. He doesn’t feel responsible for the damage.”  

“You’re kidding! How awful! This truck is so new I can smell it.” His friend continued, “Did you contact your insurance company? How are you going to get him to pay for it?” 

Tom replied, “This has been a real spiritual journey for me. After a lot of soul-searching and discussions with my wife about hiring an attorney, it came down to this: I can either be in the right, or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor. Since my neighbor will probably be with me longer than the truck, I decided to focus on our relationship. Besides, trucks are meant to be banged up, so I got mine initiated into the real world a bit earlier than I expected.” ¹ 

Leading with the mind of Christ is to choose to focus on others for the life and health of the Christian community.

Christ-centered leadership is incarnational. 

It is a choice to be present with and for the people entrusted to your care. Jesus “…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human…” Often leadership is viewed as being set apart from the people you are leading. But Jesus came to be with us. Leadership is most effective when you are related to and present with the people entrusted to your care. 

Max Dupree, in his book Leadership Jazz, tells the story of his granddaughter Zoe. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound and seven ounces. She was so tiny that his wedding ring fit over her arm. Additionally, Zoe’s biological father abandoned Max’s daughter the month before Zoe was born.  

The first time Max suited up in protective gear to visit Zoe in her isolate in the neonatal unit of the hospital she had two IVs in her arms, one in her navel, and a feeding tube plus a breathing tube in her mouth. A wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave Max his instructions.  

“For the next several months, you will be the surrogate father,” she told him. “I want you to come see me every day. While you are here, I would like you to rub her arms and her legs with the tip of your finger. While you are caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her because she needs to connect your voice with your touch.”  

“Ruth was doing exactly the right thing for Zoe and without realizing it, she was giving me the perfect description of the work of a leader. At the core of being a leader is the ability to always connect one’s voice with one’s touch.”  

Leading with the mind of Christ is to be present with and related to the people you are leading. It is to love them so much that you want to be with them and work for their good. You bring a human touch to the work of goals, objectives, and deadlines. 

Christ-centered leadership is about humility. 

Paul’s instruction to the Philippians was to look out for the interests of others. Your call, as a Christ-centered leader, is an ultimate concern for others which is greater than your self-concern. Your call is to have the mind of Christ who emptied himself and became a servant. 

In reality, not many of us see ourselves as humble servants. In fact, we find it offensive. But let’s be honest, there is a difference between the kind of serving most of us do and the willful decision to humbly serve. When you make the decision to lead in self-giving service, you give up the right to be in charge. The amazing thing about that decision is, you become vulnerable and authentic. The joy of leading energizes your life and leading. Rather than the pride of choosing to serve, you give yourself to be available to those God sends your way. 

Humility allows you to lead from the center of who you are as a follower of Jesus. 

There is a story of a man who asked a rabbi, “How come in the olden days God would show God’s self to people, but today nobody ever sees God”

The rabbi replied, “Because nowadays nobody can bow low enough.” 

Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who bowed low, emptied himself, and became a servant. Leading with the mind of Christ is a leadership choice that comes only after spending time with Jesus and the community in which you are leading. 

Respond

O God, help me lead with the mind of Jesus. By your grace, help me to let go of position and prestige and to grasp your love for me. Help me become obedient in my trust in you so all I say and do brings you glory and works for the good of the people you have given me to love and serve. Remind me again that who I am is how I lead. In Jesus name. Amen 

Return

At the end of the day, give God thanks for the people you met today. Where did you experience giving yourself up for the good of another person? In whom did you see Jesus? What opportunities did you have to love as God in Jesus has loved you? Give God thanks for the opportunities to love others as you have been loved.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

I hope your celebration with family and friends has been a good one. I’ve been thinking of you and giving God thanks for your ministry. I pray that the joy of Jesus will be with you throughout this next year. This brings me to something I have been thinking about. 

One of the songs I like at Christmas is titled, “The Best Gift of All.” The words are as follows:

The Best Gift of All

Candles glow from frosted windows

    Rooms are filled with twinkling lights,

There’s a manger scene, boughs of evergreen,

     Someone is singing ‘Silent Night’.

And every gift my heart remembers, 

     of easy laugher, dear old friends,

Precious faces and smiles, 

     the dancing eyes of a child,

All remind me once again: The best gift of all is Jesus,

     His love knows no season or place.

You can see Him in the firelight

     Reflected on each face.

And though we cherish the blessings of Christmas, 

     When his love seems especially near.

The Best Gift of All is Jesus – 

     All through the year. 

In a world of hidden motives and questionable agendas, there is still hope in what God offers. In the midst of our brokenness and the world’s chaos, Jesus is the message of God’s goodness. In Jesus there is something pure, something right, something true, someone good. The best gift of all is Jesus. He is with us all through the year.

Read  Luke 2:1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. – Luke 2:1-7

Reflect

This Christmas I was reminded of a family that celebrates Christmas all through the year. Through a small white envelope stuck among the branches of a Christmas tree, there is no name, no identification, no inscription. The envelope just peeks through the branches of the tree. 

The tradition began years ago when Nancy’s husband Mike stated, “I hate Christmas. Not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it. I can’t stand the overspending, the frantic running, the gifts given in desperation because you can’t think of anything else.” 

Knowing how her husband felt, Nancy decided one year to bypass the usual gifts of “shirts and ties.” She decided to do something special for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Christmas Inspiration

Their son Kevin, who was 12 years old at the time, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, he participated in a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. The team was made up of kids who did not have the same advantages of Kevin. 

They dressed in faded tattered uniforms and shoes so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together. It was a sharp contrast to Kevin’s team in their new blue and gold uniforms and new wrestling shoes. As the match began, Nancy was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without protective headgear. It was a luxury the inner-city team obviously could not afford. Kevin’s team won easily. After the match, Mike shook his head sadly and said, “I wish just one of them could have won.” 

An Idea

It was at that moment that Nancy had the idea for Mike’s Christmas present. That afternoon, Nancy went to a local sporting goods store, bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. 

On Christmas Eve, Nancy placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what she had done. It was his gift from her. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year as well as the Christmases that followed. 

A Simple Envelope

Each Christmas, Nancy followed the tradition. One year she sent a group of Special Olympics youngsters to a hockey game. Another year she sent a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground a week before Christmas. Each year it was an act of kindness that offered hope to the recipients.

The envelope became the highlight of Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning. The children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As they grew older, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

A Tradition Continues

Several years ago, Nancy lost Mike to cancer. When the next Christmas came around, Nancy was still wrapped in grief. She barely had enough desire to put up a tree. But Christmas Eve found Nancy placing an envelope on the tree. An amazing thing happened. The next morning it was joined by three more envelopes. Each of Mike’s children had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown for that family. Mike’s grandchildren now stand wide-eyed around the tree as their fathers take down the envelope. 

Hope-Filled Love

Now, what happened in that family? They experienced God’s incredible love. That love is our hope, and it is rooted in God’s gift in and through Jesus. 

So, as you put away your decorations, or think that Christmas is over, be sure to look in the tree one last time. There is one more gift. It is the best gift of all.

May the joy of Jesus be yours all through the year.

Respond

Be mindful of the people around you today. How is God inviting you to give the gift of Jesus? What might you do to give the gift of God’s love throughout the coming year? 

Pray

O God, I know the best gift I have ever received is your love. Because of Jesus, I have experienced your love and hope in and through the people around me. This next year, help me become an instrument of your love so that the people I encounter will experience the hope you have given me this Christmas. Just as I have received the best gift of all in Jesus, use me as a gift of love and hope this coming year. Amen   

Return

Consider your thoughts, feelings, and actions from today. With whom did you interact? What new life were you offered? Give God thanks for the people you met today. With whom did you share the gift of God’s love? How did you share it? What do you celebrate about your sharing? What would you do differently? 

Remember

The best gift of all is Jesus. Let’s celebrate Hope Throughout The Year! 

Advent is a time of preparation. We are invited to prepare the way for something new and unknown. When Kim and I were expecting our first child, we did not know exactly who or what we were expecting. We did not know what the child would look like, be like, or how it would change our lives. All we knew for sure was that nothing would ever be the same. Even with all we did not know, we still cleared space, a nursery, a place for this unknown child to become a part of our lives. 

Advent is a time to prepare the way by becoming vulnerable and letting go of the things that take up too much room in our lives. We may not understand all we are preparing to receive, but we know the One who is coming brings us hope. 

Yearning for What We Cannot Name

That is what makes the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist so interesting. They both yearn for something they cannot name. For Isaiah, it is the revealed glory of the Lord. For John, it is the one who will come after him, who is mightier than he. Neither of them knows any details.

John cannot even give his hearers a name to listen for. All that either one of them can proclaim is that the old ways of life are passing away and that new life is on its way. Without the luxury of details and with no concession to our need to know who or what is coming, they call us to prepare the way for that new life, to clear away anything that might get in its way, and to wait without knowing when it will come, or what it will look like, or how it will change our lives. 

With that said, there is hope in making room for Jesus. 

Read: Isaiah 40:3-8 and Mark 1:1-7

A voice is crying out: “Clear the LORD’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God! Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened. Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain. The LORD’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together; the LORD’s mouth has commanded it.”

A voice was saying: “Call out!” And another said, “What should I call out?” All flesh is grass; all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field. The grass dries up and the flower withers when the LORD’s breath blows on it. Surely the people are grass. The grass dries up; the flower withers, but our God’s word will exist forever. – Isaiah 40:3-8

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: “Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.” – Mark 1:1-7

Reflect

A couple was expecting their second child. They looked in vain for a place in the house to create a nursery. After several lengthy discussions, they decided that the husband’s study would have to go. His library was divided up and moved into smaller bookshelves throughout the house. Even though he loved his library dearly, there was new life on the way, and the way had to be prepared. 

Making Room

Here is where we are in Advent. Whether we are expecting our own baby, the baby Jesus, or a grown-up Lord coming in great power and glory, we are called to prepare the way for new life. We are called to make room by letting go of our old ways, even our old loves, as painful as that might be. It is either we prepare the way for this new life or prepare ourselves for the news that we have been passed over because there is no room in us. 

At the heart of the messages of Isaiah and John is the challenge to wait without clinging to our preferences and to receive what new life God has for us. Both tell us that what we are hanging onto fades, withers, and passes away. It is only when we stop clinging to what has become gods for us and stop looking to those things to save us, that we can receive who the living God brings to us. It is only when we are able to empty our hearts and wait without our preferences that there is room for God to bring himself to us.

Deceptive Preferences

What is surprising is how deceptive some of our preferences are. My guess is that any one of us can turn and walk away from a golden calf. We could toss our savings out the window if we believed our souls depended on it. 

Those preferences are obvious, but what about our desire for independence? The belief that everything will be alright if we can just take care of ourselves and not have to ask anyone to help us. Or the romantic idea of friendship? The belief is that we can face anything in life if we just have one other person to love us the way we are, and to love in return. Or a variation on that one, the obsession with family. The idea of family is good, but the belief that our happiness and success is based upon surrounding ourselves with close and committed people who are just like us is not real. 

The most deceptive preference of all is the belief we can worship the way we want, when we want, and who we want if we live good lives. Being good and doing good is what is needed to get into heaven.

What preferences can you name?

The list is long, health, friendship, patriotism, power, money. I know you want to say to me that these are good things. And I will say, of course, they are. How else would they get in the way of what God has for us? 

The first criterion of an idol is that it makes us feel good in our hearts. That is why we grab ahold and hang on. We cling so tightly that eventually what we like and want becomes the only source of life for us. The only problem is that if our hearts and souls are full of what we want and prefer, we have lost our ability to receive what God has for us. We are full up; there is no room at the inn. While God is looking for a nursery, we are in our offices with the door closed.

Advent Hope

During Advent, we are invited to come out, to let go, and become vulnerable, not to forsake the things we love and want, but to put them in proper perspective and priority. We are invited to learn to hold our likes and dislikes lightly and to give them up when it becomes clear that they are taking up too much room. 

Our hope is in making room for Jesus. But to have room for Jesus, we must prepare for something new. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t even have to understand how it all is to happen. But we do have to wait with nothing but faith in the promise that the advent of God himself comes to those who saved him room. 

Respond

Be mindful of the people around you today. How is God inviting you to receive them into your life? What new life is being offered? How will you make room for who and what God is sending to you? 

Pray

O God, shape my life with divine humility. By your grace, help me make room for you by giving up my place and by letting go of my preferences. Help me become a dwelling place for your love and peace. I offer my life to be your residence in my everyday and ordinary life. Amen

Return 

Consider your thoughts, feelings, and actions from today. With whom did you interact? What new life were you offered? Give God thanks for the people you met today. What room do you need to prepare for whom God is sending you? 

This Advent Season, we are again asking ourselves, “How do we as the people of God live out God’s mission for the world? We are in the midst of profound shifts in our church, in our country, and in the world. Whether the shifts are religious, cultural, racial, generational, or political, we are ready to hear the prophecies of the Advent message. And we are not only ready to hear the message, but we are anointed to live out the message as God comes to be with us in Jesus. 

New Life is Born

Even though we have been through a number of Advents, we know that when we, as Jesus followers, take seriously our mission in this world and when we truly believe and live out God’s love, there is hope for our broken and hurting world. New life is born, and hope emerges. 

“O Holy Night”

This hope has been offered in many ways over the years. When we gather to worship this Christmas, many of us will hear the song, “O Holy Night.” It was written as a Christmas poem in France in the mid-1800s. When the words were put to music, their message began to change the world. In fact, “O Holy Night” was banned in several churches in France. Later, the third verse of the song was left out because of its message. The reasons were always based on theology, but the message of hope and justice was clearly proclaimed. The third verse is as follows:

“Truly He taught us to love one another.

His law is Love and His gospel is Peace. 

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,

and in his name all oppression shall cease.”

Advent is a time of preparing for God’s justice to bring hope to those who are broken and lost in this changing world. May the hope of the coming of Jesus fill you with world-changing justice. 

READ: Isaiah 61:1-2, 8 and Matthew 5:3-6

The LORD God’s Spirit is upon me because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and a day of vindication for our God…I, the LORD, love justice… – Isaiah 61:1-2, 8

Happy are people who are hopeless because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad. Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.  – Matthew 5:3-6

Reflect

A Raging River

Imagine a raging river full of rapids that surge over a waterfall. You see people struggling in the current of the river. As they are trying their best to swim to shore or grab a hold of rocks, they are being swept downstream toward the falls.

You also see people along the shore trying to help those struggling in the rushing currents. Some are reaching out at the edge of the falls to snatch victims at the last moment. Others are upstream, stepping out on the rocks to grab whomever they can reach. A bit further upstream there are some throwing out lifelines and pulling the struggling people to shore. Even further upstream there are some people teaching people how to swim. You even notice that there are some trying to install fences along the river to prevent people from falling in. At the same time, you see others, gathered at the bottom of the falls, trying to recover and save the few who survived going over the edge.

Not one of the helpers along the riverbank can catch everyone in need, but together they each do their part along the way. The one thing they all have in common is a love for helping others. 

An Example of Love

One example of that love can be found in a man named Trevor Ferrell. When Trevor was eleven years old, he saw a television news report on Philadelphia’s inner-city homeless. He couldn’t believe people were homeless and lived on the streets. He began questioning his parents why people didn’t have a place to live. It took a while, but his parents, Frank and Janet, reluctantly agreed to broaden their sheltered horizons. 

One evening, they left their home in an exclusive suburb and drove downtown. One block past city hall, they spotted an emaciated figure crumpled on a side-walk grate. Frank stopped the car and eleven-year-old Trevor got out and approached the man. 

With a blanket in hand, he said, “Sir, here’s a blanket for you.” The man stared up at Trevor at first. Then, he said softly, “Thank you. God bless you.”

Jesus Inside Me

That encounter altered the Ferrell’s life forever. Night after night they would drive downtown, trying in small ways to help the street people. They emptied their home of extra blankets, clothing, and dozens of peanut-butter sandwiches. When people learned what they were doing, someone donated a van and others charted nightly food distribution routes. To the Ferrell’s surprise, “Trevor’s Campaign” had begun.

At a young age, Trevor found himself explaining what he and his family were doing to local media. Eventually, he was explaining his campaign to major news outlets, late-night television, daily talk shows, the President of the United States, and Mother Teresa. They all wanted to meet the small boy with the big mission. When asked why he was caring for the homeless, he simply replied, “It is Jesus inside of me that makes me want to do this.”

Trevor’s Campaign

In an interview regarding “Trevor’s Campaign,” his father stated, “Our social life has changed a lot since the campaign began. Our church is behind us one hundred percent, but some of our old friends don’t understand why we’re messing with the homeless. They just tolerate our ‘idiosyncrasies.’”

For twenty years, a van traveled each night to the downtown streets of Philadelphia. It stopped first to deliver food to the residents of Trevor’s Place, a ramshackle rooming house where some of the former homeless lived. Then it proceeded to feed the hungry people gathered on sidewalk grates and street corners. 

Short Term Need & Long Term Changes 

When asked how the handouts have made a difference in the complex business of helping the homeless, Frank Ferrell sighed deeply and said, “We’re trying to meet short-term needs and figure out ways to bring long-term changes to people’s lives. Sometimes it seems like just a band-aid. But this is how we build relationships. These people become our friends, and they trust us to help them in bigger ways.”  Then Frank paused for a moment, looked at the landscape of broken bottles and bodies, and said, “There are plenty of struggles, But I know one thing: giving has made all the difference in my life. I used to just read the Scriptures. Now I feel like I am living them.”

Meeting a Need

Trevor’s Campaign has evolved over the past 32 years. His objective is to meet human needs, alleviate suffering, and restore hope by developing comprehensive programs for vulnerable children and adults in the Greater Philadelphia area. 

Trevor is one of those people along the riverbank seeking to save those who are drowning in the changing world in which we live.

Respond

Where will you see a human need today? How might God’s love become human in you? Begin to imagine how you might respond to the needs around you. 

Pray

O God, you have taught me to love you and the people around me. You have put within me a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Use me as an instrument of your peace, so that the people I meet each day will experience your love in and through my words and actions. Help me be a person who offers hope in the name and love of Jesus. Amen.

Return

Consider your thoughts, feelings, and actions from today. Where did you see human need? How did you respond? What do you need to become more the person God needs you to be for this time of change?

Advent is a season of waiting and expectation. As we wait, we reflect upon the events of the past year. With expectation, we anticipate receiving the hope needed to navigate the year ahead. 

It is obvious, as we enter this Advent Season, we are coming to the end of another difficult year. In both big and small ways, our lives have been filled with constant, and often painful, reminders that something is not right. Things are just not the way they are supposed to be. 

The Hope of Jesus

At the same time, Advent provides us, in the midst of brokenness and pain, the opportunity to look beyond the worst situations and circumstances and to see the hope offered to us in Jesus. 

The biblical story is that in the darkest of hours, whether by our own doing or at the doing of others, God comes to us as the light in our darkness. In Jesus, God enters the darkness of our brokenness and pain to bring us the light of healing and hope. 

So, we wait, expecting our hope to come. The good news is, God is with us. God has come as the Light of the World to be with us. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish the light. This is our hope. 

Read

Isaiah 2:2-6: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned. You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy. They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as those who divide plunder rejoice. As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them, the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor. Because every boot of the thundering warriors, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire. A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

John 1:1-5: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

Reflect

The Bible uses the image of darkness to describe chaos, fear, uncertainty, and death. The image of darkness is used in a variety of stories from the prophecy of Isaiah to the birth of Jesus. 

The prophet Isaiah was called to speak to the people of Israel. They were a people walking in the darkness of sin, danger from enemies, and judgment from God. The only hope for their darkness was light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us.”

A New Day

The birth of Jesus was the dawning of a new day. According to John, Jesus is the Word that was from the beginning, the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life and the life was the light of all people. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

So, Advent is preparing for the light to come in the darkness. It is the preparation for Jesus, the light of the world. It is Jesus, God’s light, who comes into our world and breaks the chains of darkness and brings hope for the future. 

So, we wait, expecting our hope to come. I get it. Darkness comes in a variety of ways. It shows up when you are looking for direction, fearful of the circumstances, feeling alone, and paralyzed by anxiety. It shows up when you have doubts and fears as you look to the future. I understand that darkness. 

Times of Darkness

Several years ago, I faced a time of darkness. I faced uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond myself or the moment of pain I was experiencing. Hurt, confused and feeling alone, I was uncertain about the future. It was at the moment of my greatest distress, a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I was not offered a lot of sympathy or unrealistic platitudes. I don’t ever remember hearing the words, “Call me if you need me.” What I do remember hearing was, “You know where to find me.” 

God sent me a person of faith, a Jesus follower, who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need. She created a space for me to talk about my anxiety, disappointments, pain, and fear. Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened compassionately. At appropriate times would ask me the questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing. She offered Christ to me by becoming the embodiment of God’s grace. I began to trust that I was not alone in darkness of my uncertainty. 

The space created and the grace offered allowed me to move beyond the moments of my anxiety to see new possibilities. I began to look beyond what I had experienced and to create a new story for myself.

I began to heal. My friend provided several ways for me to put into practice the new possibilities that began to emerge. We created plans for reflection, prayer, and conversation. She challenged me to look beyond myself to see what new things God might be doing in my life. I was invited to put my faith into action by looking beyond myself. 

It was at that point that I rediscovered God’s work in my life. God began to use me to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love. It was through the engagement of this colleague and friend in my life, this Jesus follower, who helped me see the hope in the midst of my uncertainty. There were no easy answers. In fact, there were no answers at all. 

She came alongside me, in the darkness of great anxiety, embodied God’s love, and journeyed with me through difficult moments. Helping me see what God might have in store for the future, she was an instrument of God’s hope in the midst of my uncertainty. She was a light in my darkness.

God came in the person of a Jesus follower. While I was in darkness, I saw a light that brought hope. 

The Good News

There is good news in this Advent prophecy: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined… For a child has been born for us, a son given to us. He is called by many names, but we call him Jesus. He is the Light of the world, the One who comes from God to save us from our darkness. “Light and Life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.”

Whatever your need, whatever your circumstances, whatever your darkness, there is hope. For unto us a child is born and unto us a Son is given. And his name is Jesus, the light of hope in your darkness. 

Respond

As you go about the activities of your day, be aware of the people who are broken and in pain. Be aware of the people who bring light into their lives. As you become aware of the people around you, be thinking of how you might be a person of light in the lives of the people you encounter along the way. Look for Jesus in the people you meet today and be aware of God’s loving embrace. 

Pray

O God, I am grateful that you are the light in the midst of my darkness. Help me be aware of your presence in every situation, circumstance, relationship, and acquaintance of this day. When it is so dark, I think I cannot see, give me eyes to see your light. When the noise is so great that I think I cannot hear, give me ears to hear your still small voice. Give me a heart to discern and a mind to recognize what you are doing. Help me be your light to the people you send my way. I offer all I am to you in the name of Jesus, the Light of the World. Amen.

Return

Take a few moments to name the places you experienced God’s light today? Through whom did you experience Jesus, God’s light? Who came alongside you to be a light in your darkness? To whom were you God’s light today? 

For the seasons of Advent and Christmas, I’ll be sharing a series of devotions focused on hope. Look for an invitation next week about this devotional series.

Read 

Matthew 1:18-21

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary, his mother, was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17-19

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!  All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ…”

Reflect

The incarnation provides a window into the hope offered to us in Jesus. In the midst of chaos and confusion, and in the mess of challenges and changes, God is with us.

When we read the biblical stories, we find that the birth of Jesus, in a stable to humble parents named Mary and Joseph, is God’s dramatic way of coming into the world in a way that we can understand. It is the story of God taking on the life of a human being and coming into this world to live with us.

The Incarnation

I like this illustration of incarnation. In the 1996 Olympics, an American runner, Derek Redmond, was entered in the 400-meter race. For years he had practiced just for this race. His father, who was also his trainer and coach, had helped him become one of the fastest people in the world.

As the race began, Redmond took an early lead. He was well out in front of the other sprinters when his Achilles tendon snapped. He fell to the track but did not drop out of the race. He struggled to his feet and began limping toward the finish line, dragging his wounded leg behind him. The crowd stood and cheered him on, but the pain was so great and the wound so serious that he struggled to finish the race. Suddenly, a middle-aged man jumped over the guardrail onto the track, caught up with Redmond, put his arms around his waist, and helped him finish the race. The man was Redmond’s father.

In an interview after the race, Redmond said, “He was the only one who could have helped me, because he was the only one who knew what I had been through.”

God With Us

God always comes to us in a way that satisfies our need for God at those times when we need God most. Matthew reminds us that the name Jesus means savior, and that the name Emmanuel means God is with us. Matthew is telling us that in Jesus, God’s saving love is with us.

Luke reminds us that Jesus came alongside the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts. Being born in a stable points to the fact there was no respectable place for him. His birth being announced to shepherds symbolizes the good news for those considered unclean and unacceptable in good religious circles. Luke is telling us that God’s saving love is for everyone.

John reminds us that Jesus was present in the beginning with God because Jesus is God. Then God becomes flesh and lives among us in Jesus. I understand the words lived among us to mean “pitched his tent next to ours.” Eugene Peterson in the Message says, “moved into our neighborhood.” John is telling us that God in Jesus has come to live with us.

And Paul reminds us that God is in Christ “reconciling the world to himself.” It might be helpful to think of the word reconciled as being embraced or hugged. God is in Christ “embracing” the world or “hugging” you with love.

A Window of Hope

So, the incarnation provides a window into the hope offered to you. Your hope is seen in the fact that no matter what your situation or circumstance, God has come to you in Jesus to hug you with a love that will never let you go. In the midst of sin and failure, God embraces you with forgiving love. While seeking meaning and purpose, God embraces you with encouraging love. When struggling with grief and despair, God embraces you with comforting love. No matter the chaos and confusion, or the challenges and changes, God is with you, embracing you with love and offering you hope. When you catch a glimpse of that kind of love, there is nothing left to do but to move forward in hope.

Respond

As you go about the activities of your day, be aware of the people in the places you live, work, and play. Whom will you meet Jesus today? Will you meet him at the grocery store, at the office, on the street, at the park? Will you meet him on the golf course, at the spa, at the club? Look for Jesus in the people and be aware of God’s loving embrace.

Pray

O God, I am grateful that you have come to be with me in Jesus. Help me be aware of your presence in every situation and circumstance and in every relationship and acquaintance of this day. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear you. Give me a heart to discern and a mind to recognize what you are doing. Make me a blessing to someone somewhere today as you embrace me and the people around me with your love that makes me more who you want me to be. I offer my life to be a home for you and for the people you send my way. Amen

Return

Take a few moments to name the places you experienced God’s love today? Through whom did you see Jesus? Through whom did you experience God’s love? Who came alongside you to help you reach the finish line?

Would it be fair to say that this past year has been a year of interruptions? Whether it has a pandemic, working from home, learning new ways to communicate, connecting with people, experimenting with worship, or an email from your district superintendent, this has been one year full of interruptions. 

Just as you think you have a plan of action and a routine that works, there comes another “knock on the door” in the form of a change, an additional request, or an extra task. You feel a passing tinge of irritation and think to yourself, “Why this? Why now?”  

The Ministry of Interruption

The disruptive “knock on the door” presents itself relentlessly throughout the day, in the form of Zoom meetings, emails, text messages, questions to answer, problems to solve, fires to put out. It seems the information age has morphed into the interruption age. So how do you respond? 

It’s a matter of perspective. What if you were to change your view of these interruptions? What if you began to see them as opportunities that didn’t interrupt your work but became your work? What if they became opportunities for you to be the leader God created you to be? It is tempting to lock the door, hold the calls, ignore the emails, and miss the meetings. But what if you stepped up and made these interruptions a crucial part of your work?

What’s Your Role?

Years ago, I read a story about a boy named Wally. He was seven years old, big for his age, considered to be a slow learner, and always eager to be in the middle of what was happening. That’s why everyone wondered what role the teacher would give him in the annual Christmas play. He was hyper and didn’t pay attention. Perhaps she would let him pull the curtain to open and close the play.  To everyone’s surprise the teacher gave Wally the role of the innkeeper. He was delighted. All he had to do was to learn one line, “There is no room in the inn.”

He practiced in the mornings and in the evenings.  He had the line down.  His timing was perfect in rehearsals.  He was ready and eager to play his part.

On the night of the program, parents and guests took their places.  Every seat in the auditorium was filled. The children entered singing “Oh come all ye faithful.” The lights dimmed. A hush moved over the audience. The curtain opened on the scene. Mary and Joseph entered the stage and walked up to the inn. Joseph said to the Innkeeper, “Please sir, my wife is not well. Could we have a room for the night?”

Wally was ready for his line. He knew it. He had rehearsed it. But at that moment, his mind went blank. He began, “There is…” and he hesitated. He started over again, “There is…” and again his mind went blank. The audience began to laugh nervously. Some people were embarrassed for him. A prompter, just off the stage, whispered, “There is no room in the inn,” but Wally couldn’t hear what was being said. At that moment, neither Wally nor Joseph knew what to do. So, Joseph started to walk away toward the stable on the left side of the stage. Seeing him walk away, Wally in desperation called out, “Look, there’s plenty of room at my house. Come and go home with me.”

Over the years the characters in the Christmas story have become clearly defined for us. The issues all seem clear cut. Herod is a villain, the shepherds and the wise men are heroes. And the Innkeeper has become one of the people who turns Mary, Joseph, and baby away. In our imagination, we envision him as a bearded old man, sticking his head out a window, and shouting, “There is no room in the inn. There might be something in the stable out back. Check there.”

Who is Central to the Story?

I think the innkeeper might be a key figure in this story. Although preachers and storytellers have presented him in a negative way, I think his action is a symbol for Luke. Throughout Luke’s story of Jesus, he tells of how there was room made for people who had been left out and forgotten.

He takes this one line, “There is no room in the inn,” and illustrates how it is a theme throughout the ministry of Jesus. He shows us how Jesus and the church have responded to unexpected interruptions.

He tells us that John, one of the disciples, tried to stop someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The person was not part of their group. But Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” Jesus makes room for those who are not part of the group.

He tells us that people were bringing their babies to Jesus so that he might bless them. When the disciples saw the parents bringing their children, they ordered them to stop. But Jesus called for the parents and the children and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them…” Even though the parents and children were an interruption, Jesus made room for them.

What’s Holding You Back?

He also tells us of Philip, when filled with God’s spirit, went to Samaria to tell people about God’s love and acceptance in Jesus.  The Samaritans had been excluded from the main part of the Jewish religion. They were considered outcasts and unworthy to be part of the Jewish community. Yet, the Spirit interrupts what Philip had been taught and leads him to these outcasts. Luke reports that the crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said. There was great joy in that city. The Samaritans had been considered unworthy in the past. Although they were considered an interruption to the main community, the church found room for them.

Philip, on his way back to Jerusalem from Samaria, met an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the queen of Ethiopia. He was a Gentile and unable to father children. In Deuteronomy 23 it states that any man who cannot father children is not admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Yet, Philip befriends him and shares the story of Jesus with him. The eunuch asks, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” In other words, what prevents me from being a part of the group, the community, the church? Although Philip is interrupted by this Ethiopian eunuch, he baptized him. The church found room for those who had been excluded in the past.

Another Interruption 

Luke tells us of Simon Peter and his conversation with Cornelius. Cornelius was a commander in the Italian Cohort. Directed by God’s spirit, Simon Peter and Cornelius meet at Cornelius’ house. There is a large group waiting to hear from Peter. Now, because Cornelius is a Gentile, Simon Peter says, “You yourselves know that is it unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

Peter continues, “I truly understand that God shows not partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him…” Peter shares with Cornelius, his family, and friends about Jesus. By the end of the meeting the Holy Spirit is poured out even on the Gentiles. Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ. Another interruption that became an opportunity to share the love and acceptance of God.  

Not The Room You Expected

For Luke, the innkeeper is a key figure in his story, because he did find room for Mary and Joseph. It just was not the room expected. In the midst of all he was facing, he was ready for the interruption. Every Christmas season, we rehearse the story of God’ saving and healing work coming to be with us in Jesus. The question is, do you and I have room for such an interruption?  

Jesus comes knocking at the door of our hearts in various ways, through various people, in various events, providing us an opportunity to be who God created us to be. Often, we dismiss the knock by saying, “I’m tired of all these interruptions” or “I’m just a layperson” or “I’m not a preacher” or “I’m not a pastor or theologian or…” 

The Innkeeper’s Response

The innkeeper was an ordinary person, doing his job. He was overworked because of the census. He was on the frontline. I imagine that Mary and Joseph were not the only ones seeking a room that night. Although there was not room in the expected place of the inn, he did have a place for them.

He responded with compassion. Even though it was an interruption, he made room. Just as Mary and Joseph came to the innkeeper that night, Jesus comes to you, not in the form of a king but in the lives of people, like Mary and Joseph, who need a place. 

He comes in the lives of people outside our groups, our clubs, our churches, looking for a place. He comes as those who have nothing to offer but themselves, who need a place.  He comes as outcasts, those pushed aside, those excluded, who need a place. He comes as those who are seeking healing and hope. We all need a place.

God Makes a Place for You

The Christmas good news is, God has made a place for you and for me. Whether we are insiders or outsiders, whether we are good or not so good, whether we feel we belong or feel left out, whether we think we deserve it or feel that we are unworthy of any goodness, God has already made a place for you. Because of God’s love in Jesus, you have a place.

Now, we can look at the innkeeper and say that he claimed there was no room in the inn. I suppose we could say the crowded inn is like our lives so cluttered with things that there is just no time, no energy, no money, no room left. We could say that Mary and Joseph were an unexpected interruption to a long and tiresome day.

Or you can say, as full as my life is, I still have room. 

Jesus Comes When Least Expected

Just as in Bethlehem, Jesus comes when you seem to least expect him. Mary and Joseph came late at night when the innkeeper was tired. Again, I’m guessing they were an interruption to his evening. Although there was no room in the expected place of the inn, the innkeeper had room for them. 

So, what if you were to change your view of these interruptions? What if you began to see them as opportunities that didn’t interrupt your work but became your work? What if you responded to these interruptions as opportunities for you to be the leader God created you to be? Try the following: 

Focus upon the person or persons involved

Look for Jesus in each person. With every encounter take advantage of the opportunity to make a positive and lasting connection.

Adapt to each person and context

Remember that “one size does not fit all” persons or contexts. Be alert to the fact that behavior that works remarkably well with one person may turn another person off completely. It’s important to be able to adapt in each unique circumstance.

Respond authentically

Your genuine response will add a little “magic” to the moment. Lead out of who are and not out of your title or position. Listen carefully, understand the issue, and respond with compassion, care, and confidence.

Intentionally develop care and compassion in others

As you address the most pressing issue in a way that helps now, intentionally empower those you are assisting. Help them develop the skills of compassion and care. Assist them in becoming who they have been created to be.  

Don’t Dismiss the Interruptions

This coming year don’t dismiss all interruptions as barriers to work. Begin to view these moments as an important part of your work. Open yourself to a more fulfilling expression of your leadership. Even a single interruption is an opportunity to help people think differently about themselves and their future.

It is almost Christmas. Keep your mind and your heart open for an interruption. For the hour approaches when Jesus will come to you and to me. And like the innkeeper, you and I will have to decide. The knock at the door will come.  Will it be another knock in a long series of knocks of interruption and inconvenience? Or will the knock be the next opportunity to love in the name of Jesus?

Merry Christmas

Even though this Christmas might be different in its gatherings and celebrations, Jesus still comes, and he still brings all his interrupting friends with him.

Remember, Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

From Diana, Sara, and Tim, in your Capitol Area South District office, we interrupt you with this blessing, “May the joy of Jesus be yours this Christmas! May you have a blessed Christmas!”

A year ago, not one of us would have guessed that this Advent Season would be as valuable as it is. Advent has always been an important time to rehearse our hope in God’s love and care as experienced in the coming of Jesus. But who knew that in this Advent season, our proclamation of hope, peace, and goodwill would be interrupted by a killer virus?

You are not alone in your feelings of disappointment, discouragement, weariness, and despair. It has been a long nine months of starts and stops, of foggy vision, and wondering what to do next. Whether you feel it or not, you have done well in providing leadership at critical moments along the way.

A Critical Moment

This advent season is another critical moment. The world, our communities, our churches are facing the unknown of COVID-19. We have not experienced a time like this in recent history. What we know is, when we face the unknown, our default setting is to focus upon every negative consequence imaginable. I usually say, “We make up what we don’t know.” It is a way of expressing fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. When we are anxious and fearful, we are often paralyzed. Because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing and blame those around us for our circumstances. That is why this is a critical moment. 

This advent season provides you the opportunity to use your influence to offer hope and to lead a movement forward, shifting from the paralysis of fear to hopeful action. The question is, how do we make that shift?   

An Advent Opportunity

There are many people working to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves.  Most people are intentional in their care for one another and for themselves. I am grateful for the many acts of care I have noticed and for the reports I have received. You have done well.

To take advantage of our Advent opportunity and to help move forward, I want to share an image with you. It has been helpful to me as I have attempted to offer encouragement and hope.  

A River of Hope or Despair?

Imagine a raging river full of rapids that surge over a waterfall. You see people struggling in the current of the river. As they are trying their best to swim to shore or grab a hold of rocks, they are being swept downstream toward the falls.

You also see people along the shore trying to help those struggling in the rushing currents. Some are reaching out at the edge of the falls to snatch victims at the last moment. Others are upstream, stepping out on the rocks to grab whomever they can reach. A bit further upstream there are some throwing out lifelines and pulling the struggling people to shore. Even further upstream there are some teaching people how to swim. You even notice that there are some trying to install fences along the river to prevent people from falling in. At the same time, you see others, gathered at the bottom of the falls, trying to recover and save the few who survived going over the edge.

Not one of the helpers along the river back can catch everyone in need, but together they each do their part along the way. The one thing they all have in common is a love for helping others. 

Dispenser of Hope

So, here is your Advent opportunity. As a leader, decide to be a dispenser of hope. Build upon the love and care people have to offer. Give encouragement and support to those who are working to navigate the fear and anxiety of the time. 

You know your present situation (current reality). You also know the goals you have in mind (mission). Now, how will you navigate the obstacles in the way? Your navigation of the obstacles will be where you become a hopeful leader and a dispenser of hope.  

Here are some things to help in your navigation.

  • Use the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as ways of leading through the anxiety and fear of this time. Be forward-thinking, inspirational, and positive.
  • Encourage the people entrusted to your care. Be generous with them. Focus upon their strengths and encourage them to be courageous in their leadership.  
  • Embrace change. The quickest path to growth and improvement is by embracing the changes that come your way. Be vulnerable. Step into the changes, even at the risk of not knowing what to do.   
  • Accept failure. Your failure is not final or fatal. Hopeful leadership requires courage and courageous leaders often fail. The question is, are you learning from what you have tried that did not work? 
  • Keep your heart and mind on the mission. Keep moving forward. Invite others to join you on the journey and encourage them to become courageous leaders. Because your hope is in God, be confident in your mission. 
  • Hold the future before the people entrusted to you. Hopeful leaders believe tomorrow holds great opportunities. Even when COVID-19 messes up schedules and routines, morale is low, and discouragement is high, hopeful leaders don’t sit back and let things happen. Hopeful leaders know where they are going and how to navigate the obstacles along the way.    
  • Follow through and do what you say you will do. No matter how significant or insignificant the task or assignment, get it done. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.

Offer Hope

So here is your Advent opportunity. Offer hope to those who are giving themselves in love to care for and to protect the people around them. 

  1. Write a note of thanks to the individuals who have worn masks, kept their distance, and have helped in keeping protocols.
  2. Send an email or text of encouragement to the individuals who have been doing double duty. Whether as parents working at home and teaching their children at the same time, whether as care-givers to aging family members and neighbors, whether giving up social activities like not gathering in groups to play cards, or not gathering as family during special holiday meals, a note of encouragement and care goes a long way in offering hope.
  3. Be intentional in giving thanks and support to those healthcare providers, whether in hospitals or test sites, whether you know them personally or not, make the effort to share with them your gratitude and appreciation. Your support will become contagious.  
  4. Proclaim with clarity and boldness the hope that God provides in and through Jesus. It is the Season of Advent that provides us the opportunity to remember and rehearse God’s love and care for us and for all people. 

Don’t Get Swept into the River

Even at our best, not one of us can solve the COVID-19 crisis on our own. But as a team of people, as the Body of Christ, the church, we can do our part. We can link arms with those to our right and to our left and trust one another. It really does no one any good if any of us gets swept into the river as we try to help.

Throughout the remainder of this Advent Season be a dispenser of hope. What is the one thing you will do to instill hope and a positive vision in the people entrusted to your care? Okay. Now is the time to do it. 

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

When it comes to Christmas, you want everything to be perfect. Whether it is the tree, the decorations around the house, the food prepared for the family dinner, or the music heard only at this time of year, the Christmas preparations must be perfect.

So, you schedule your time and plan your activities. You have your lists.  Lists for gifts and menus. Lists of names of all who will be present for dinner. You remind yourself that you will not forget the “reason for the season.” So, you hum the carols and you recite the readings. Besides, you know the story so well you can tell it by heart. You have everything planned and perfectly in place.

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Before you say, “How can angels be courageous?” Stick with me. The messengers of God have a word for us about courage.

When I consider the messengers of God – the real-life angels among us – the people who speak God’s truth, embody God’s love and call forth grace in others, I can tell you about some of the most courageous people I know.

  • She is the one who challenges the long-held assumptions with grit, grace, and gumption. She steps onto a platform once reserved for men and owns the space as a brave, clear, loving determined leader.
  • He is the one who loves unconditionally, speaking his mind by telling his heart every chance he gets…and even when the stress of in-laws and out-laws are driving his blood pressure to new heights.
  • They are the ones whose arms are open to the least of these – the children. The ones caught in an unending cycle of neglect, abuse, divorce, crime, addiction, lack of care, and much, much more.

They do not judge. Instead, they embrace. 

They do not rant. Instead, they open their doors. 

They do not demand that others should embrace their cause, but model compassion, grace, conviction, and adaptability like no other.

And none of the above people would consider themselves angels.

But, here’s why I call them God’s messengers.

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