By Christmas Eve, according to our series schedule, we found home. We found that place where we feel hope, peace, joy, and love. We found home, not in a physical space, but in our connection to Jesus Christ.
Christmas is over. Most of us ate far too many cookies and our favorite holiday treats. We opened gifts, sang Carols, and enjoyed some time with others.
Now what? Our country is still divided. Millions refuse vaccinations and ignore health precautions offered to stop COVID. The atmosphere is still eroding, and the seas warming. Now that we’ve found home, how do we keep our home as a place of hope, peace, joy, and love? Will the daily onslaught of baseless conspiracy theories and self-centered claims eventually wear us out?
We can go the power route. We can use the name of Christ to influence voters, support candidates friendly to the church, and siege the centers of government by force. But this option comes with a prophetic warning. This approach didn’t work before, and it won’t work now.
I find it amazing how a love story becomes a power trip. The story of God living among us didn’t start with shock and awe. Instead, the story begins with a helpless, lovable baby born in humble surroundings to a couple begging for shelter. Instead, God’s presence began with tenderness amid a violent, oppressive world.
Of course, the baby grows from infant to child to adult. But, isn’t it amazing that there is no evidence that Jesus was taught to defend himself with weapons or that the early bird gets the worm while the last loses out? Instead, when we listen to the wisdom of what Jesus said, we hear the opposite.
In a reflection, D. L. Mayfield writes that “Jesus did not stay the meek and mild baby in a manger that we often see this time of year. But as he grew up, he still embodied the hallmarks of the kingdom of God, which included subverting the norms of power and influence and religiously inspired hierarchies.”
And this didn’t go over well with those who chose power over meekness. Nor those who chose self-centeredness over sharing and hate over love. Don’t you wonder why God didn’t just eliminate the resistance to His divine plan and force everyone to do whatever He said?
Instead, Mayfield notes, “Jesus brought a peace which ended up getting him killed. It’s a sobering thought today, as it was for those in the early church.” This is indeed a sobering thought, but also a valuable insight into God’s expectation for His church. 2
So far, choosing the same weapons that Jesus opposed isn’t working. Instead, people are leaving churches at record numbers. Neither does a mandate for church attendance work. Nor does insisting on persons following any particular doctrine.
What works is for others to see hope, peace, joy, and love lived out in what we do daily.
In a letter to the church in Colossia, we find a list of virtues that Jesus embodied and taught followers to aspire to practice in our life together. The list is long enough to lose our attention and feel exhausting. But, on the other hand, these virtues collectively describe various attributes that create a place where hope, peace, joy, and love are found.
The list begins with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Removing any of the virtues in this list infringes on our quest to find home. Add tolerance and forgiveness to assure ongoing peace.
Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else.
The pathway to home is not found in a checklist, however. Instead, like all journeys, finding our way home involves movement from where we are towards our destination. Soon we achieve a rhythm with each step followed by another step. But our focus is never on the process of walking.
As our focus turns outward towards the world around us, we’re more apt to see the vast richness surrounding us. Neighbors who still believe that home is some physical place that takes constant renovation, new furniture, and everything in its place. And others who gave up on ever finding hope, peace, joy, and love.
The days get too short during the middle of winter and the cold winds can create a shiver that’s difficult to ignore. Yet, peak inside one of the Asbury Farms hoop houses and you will see hope in beautiful spinach thriving.
The nightly news is full of evidence that hope is fragile and peace is elusive. The stories that warm our hearts get lost in the headlines of bad news. However, stop by the South Flint Soup Kitchen around lunch time and you see a different story. A similar scene plays out every Tuesday at the Asbury Community Help Center.
Standing in lines for a little help are our neighbors. Some know the same home that we know. But most are still looking and waiting for a credible invitation.
Living as Christ taught has a certain rhythm to it. We take home on the road. Spreading hope, peace, joy, and love everywhere we go. These aren’t found by exerting power over others. Home is a lived expression of God’s hope, peace, joy, and love in us.
I’m glad you’re home. Now let’s get to work. We’re expecting company.
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A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
1 Katelin Maylum, Tommy McDoniel, and Terrance Williams. “Home for Christmas.” Flint, Michigan. © Asbury Church, 2021.
2 D L Mayfield. “Waiting for a Different Kind of King.” The Upper Room Disciplines 2021: A Book of Daily Devotions. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2020.