Posts Tagged ‘John the Baptist’

Advent Week 3: Welcome Mat

He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. (John 1:8)

A member of our church shared a story with me that I’ll never forget. She said that as Advent began this year, she and her family were feeling a little blah about the upcoming season. Same old, same old, and no “Christmas spirit,” she said. But, according to her, when she saw my daughter staring wide-mouthed at the Chrismon tree in the sanctuary, the spirit came back like a rushing wind. (Naturally, I teared up as she told me this!)

From the sanctuary Chrismon tree (Chrismon = a tree decorated with symbols of Christ)

The uninspired, uninterested feeling she described is nothing new. It has happened to many of us. Seasons come and go, with their accompanying church and family activities, and after a while the feeling just isn’t the same. We need something to give us new purpose and meaning.

I had my own moment of renewal and re-commitment this Advent as well. And mine was … evangelism.

Yes, evangelism! That word that befuddles and terrifies believers has become the “Christmas spirit” word for me.

Let me give you a little background on how I got so inspired. Most days, I’m actually a very poor evangelist, for a few reasons. None of these are legitimate, but they are real.

  • I want to be a friendly pastor and not a pushy one.
  • I don’t get out much beyond the church walls, church activities, and my college group.
  • And sometimes I just forget. Sometimes church is just a job for me, and that’s a terrible way to be a pastor. I think my colleagues and I fall into that rut from time to time, which is sad.

But evangelism is central to being a follower of Jesus! Part of our call as Christians is to get beyond ourselves, and lay out the welcome mat for someone else– to testify to the light, if you will. We are strengthened in faith as we tell others the Good News.

The call nudged at me after I read my seminary classmate Jeff McDonald’s article on why churches should work hard on bringing those holiday visitors into the fold. His argument made perfect sense to me: if people are already showing up, why not give them what they are looking for plus more? I shook my head and smiled as I read. We are so busy during Advent that we fail to see the real “reason for the season”: the face of Christ, showing up as a guest in our houses of worship.

So I invited some people to come to church! And they responded well! It almost bowled me over.

Jesus has laid out the welcome mat for you and me all over again. How will we respond?

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Advent 2: Space for Grace

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

When reading the Bible, we have to be careful to avoid reading what isn’t there.

This past Sunday, it would have been very easy for me or any other preacher to put words in the mouth of John the Baptist.  In accounts we find in other Gospels, he takes on the crowds, but in Mark’s version, his message is simple:   get ready, for a powerful One is on the way.

If we read Mark and stick to just what we find in the text, we find a presentation of John as an unusual but not necessarily off-putting guy.  Apparently, people felt comfortable enough to go out to the wilderness, hear him, and receive his baptism.  We find a man who carved out a spiritual space, so that people could make their own personal space for the Messiah.

Could you have space for grace out here?

Creating space.  A lot of what we do in church is just that.  We put all the right elements together so that people will have space, freedom, or even permission to experience new life in Christ.  We make space for grace.

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but I was amazed a few years ago when our campus ministry Bible study group created a “space for grace” for a student who came in looking very upset.  We set aside the evening’s topic to focus on helping her.  We talked about the hurt she was carrying, and almost in unison, we said it’s OK to let it go.  I think we all left feeling that the Spirit had occupied our hearts.

I think John the Baptist was on to something in his ministry.  People really do want to confess and repent.  They may not use those terms to describe what’s going on in their hearts, but they crave a space to let things go and receive forgiveness.  They seek a space for grace.

How can we provide that space for someone else, and witness to God’s grace once the space is made?