during advent at Catawissa Avenue United Methodist Church we've been inviting people to "come home for Christmas," which is both a literal invitation for those who have never been here before or who have been away for awhile, as well as a more figurative invitation for each of us to bring our whole selves home to Jesus. it has been a good series, and this week we will be focusing on our home - both the church and our spiritual home - is a place where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
it's one of my favorite things about Christianity. we don't believe that God looks at this world and says, "Ugh. Disgusting. Look at them with all of their base and primal emotions. And look at all that stuff. The Earth is such a broken, dirty, disgusting place. I can't wait until I come again and get the good guys out of there."
nope. that's not the God we see in Scripture. the God in the Bible doesn't reject the broken and blunt; doesn't ignore the ordinary objects. instead, God uses them. God takes what is broken and finds a way to use it wonderfully. God takes that which is dishonorable, and brings it to a place of honor. God takes that which is ordinary and makes it extraordinary. things like donkeys and mangers, stars and dreams are no longer just background noise. they aren't just smelly animals or food troughs. they aren't just randomly strewn pinpoints of light or the ramblings of the subconscious. God uses what is dead to you and me and breathes new life into it. dust and ribs and even dry bones have a way of taking on a life of their own with this wildly creative God of ours. are you getting this? are you yet alive?
see, here's the thing. we love the ordinary. we may not think we love the ordinary, but we do. it is comfortable for us. it is easier to manage ordinary lives. we wake up, we read the paper and drink the coffee, we go to work, we talk about sports or the weather or whatever, we go home eat dinner, watch our tivo'd shows and go to bed. or whatever your routine is. it's your routine, and you choose it, day after day. you like it. and it often becomes a bit numbing. and ordinary.
and then we gather into our ordinary churches religiously (regularly? routinely? ordinarily?) and we talk about how we look forward to a time when it will be different, when we will walk on streets paved with Gold and gates made of pearls. like our hope is attached to some celestially-lit thomas kinkade painting.
and i think God laughs. God isn't busy making gold bricks, i don't think. i think God is much more interested in the red bricks you live inside. God wants to take your ordinary life and make it abundant life (john 10:10). i'm convinced God wants to take the normal objects of your existence - the straw and mangers of your life - and turn them into the birthplace of hope and life and love. not for some future heavenly vision, but for some very present change.
Christmas reminds us that God breaks into the world not to get us out of it, but to help us in it. i hope you see the huge difference. i hope this Christmas you think about what has become ordinary for you. time with your kids? the changing of the seasons? the group of day laborers you drive by each morning? the neighbor dying of cancer? what is it for you? what has become ordinary for you, because God might just take that and turn it into something bursting with life. that's what our faith tells us. that's our hope - the hope of this season - that God comes to us right where we are, in the midst of the smells and stains of life, and fills it with such radiant starlight and angelsong that we can't do much but fall in love with all the ordinary bits and pieces of life that reflect God's awesomeness.
join me, this Christmas, wherever you may be in your own faith journey, in rediscovering the extraordinary right here in america. right here in the midst of economic recession. right here in the midst of winter. right here in the midst of broken relationships and sickness. right here in the midst of my life, in all its boring regularity, God is being born anew; hope is being born anew. will you see it with me?