The last weeks of 2009

Last week, I celebrated Christmas with Aaron, Amy and Elijah in Huntington, WV, home of Marshall University (“We Are Marshall”) and of Amy’s family. It was great spending a few days outside of DC, and with an awesome and wonderfully welcoming family.

To boot, last week …

  • I got to go on a tour of the East Wing of the White House.
  • I got to talk with family in Australia, Hong Kong, and California.
  • I got to talk with friends in New Zealand, Pennsylvania, Texas, and California. (What up, iChat video conferencing?!)
  • I got to watch a truckload of enjoyable movies: Avatar, Invictus, The Blind Side, The Invention of Lying, and Sherlock Holmes.

It was a good week. 🙂

[For Christmas pics, check out my Facebook.]

This week, I’m in snowbound St Louis for Urbana 2009, InterVarsity’s triennial missions conference. I’m here with Sojourners, who are co-leading the Poverty and Advocacy track along with World Vision and International Justice Mission. It’s the first time in Urbana’s history that they’re looking at advocacy as a form of mission, and so it’s a pretty momentous occasion and an exciting development.

One of the things we’re launching this week is the Human Wrong Initiative, which is geared towards combating child slavery in all its forms: prostitution, forced labor, and child-soldiering. Of the 27 million people still in slavery today, about half are women and children.

This is how the world is today. But it is not how the world should be. Nor how the world needs to be. Join us, get involved, let your friends know. Let’s stamp out child slavery.

The other thing that’s happening (that I’m involved with) is helping Sojourners lead a night of lament for the injustice in the world; that’ll take place tomorrow (December 29th). I’ll only be speaking for a few minutes, but I’m gonna be laying the groundwork for the couple hundred students in our track to engage with God in this way, so I’d appreciate your prayers!

[Pics to Urbana will follow. :)]

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A Christmas Prayer

H/T to Cathleen Falsani over at The Dude Abides:

A Christmas Prayer
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

Links of the Day, December 21

News

Miscellaneous

Only a few days to go …

Welcome to the fourth Sunday in Advent. In a few short days, we will celebrate the coming of the Light of the world, and the commemorative time of waiting and darkness will be over. During the last month or so, somewhat coincidentally on my brother Gabe’s recommendation, I’ve been reading Ben Patterson’s Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent. I could write much about my own journey of waiting (and I will, eventually), but that’s not what this blog is about.

Four hundred years. It had been four hundred years since anything had been heard from God. And the children of Israel languished under Roman occupation, oppressed and marginalized in what was supposed to be the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of freedom and prosperity. This was not what the fulfillment of God’s promises was meant to look like.

And into that environment, into that darkness, into that uncertainty and longing, hope came, love came, justice came, grace came: the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood. Jesus was born: the fullness of God in a fragile, helpless baby.

It’s been two thousand years since that cosmic event and those who follow in the heritage of Israel—the followers of the Way—are waiting. Jesus came, and we wait for his return, when the earth will be made right and justice, hope and healing will reign on the earth. Still, we live in the in-between time, and we might often find ourselves thinking that this is not what the kingdom of God that Jesus heralded and inaugurated with his coming is meant to look like: conflict abounds around the world, disregarding God’s commandment to love one another; poverty and hunger continue to afflict millions, even as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, flying in the face of Jesus’ exhortation to care for the least of these; a blithe disregard for the creation shows a blatant disrespect for the Creator. And that’s just a snapshot.

But in this environment, this season reminds us of the coming of Jesus, the hope of all creation. We remember that though there is much that may discourage us or deflate our spirits, the most ultimate victory was begun with the birth of a baby boy, over two thousand years ago.

“For God loved the world in this way: that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“Homeless at Christmas”

These poignant and challenging thoughts come from my friend Kurt:

He was born to an unwed teenage girl.

Born in substandard housing.

He was first greeted by some of the most marginalized people in his culture.

Under fear of death by a powerful politician, this boy and his family fled to another country and lived some time in exile.

The man who raised him was not his birth father.

He spent his most significant adult years as a wandering teacher without a permanent home.

He was executed by a coalition of religious and secular leaders afraid of his revolutionary ideas.

This one, born homeless, has become the one who offers hope to the world.

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, it is good to remember Jesus’ earthly beginning, and his self-emptying, servant stance. Jesus reached out to the marginalized throughout his life. Jesus cared for those who were aliens and marginalized following the grand tradition of the people of Israel who once were aliens themselves.

Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us. He is still God with us. He has stepped into our neighborhood and everything changes.

He stepped into the messiness of our lives — so as his followers, we must step into the messiness of our world.

Bono of U2 spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington a few years ago. He called attention to the poor and the vulnerable in our world. In that talk before then President and Mrs. Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan, and other politicians and religious leaders, he said:

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives … and God is with us — if we are with them.”

May the celebration of Jesus’ birth stir us to look beyond ourselves and towards others.

Merry Christmas!

Snow weekend!

Snow hit the East Coast hard this weekend. It was the most snow I’d ever seen. (And apparently, the most snow that’s ever fallen in DC in December!) And I was as giddy as a four year-old (or a super-excited puppy).

Anyway, the sun is blazing outside, the snow is turning to mush, and the city is slowly, slowly, slowly recovering from snow-induced paralysis.

Here’s a small selection of pics from this weekend; for more (and for a couple fun videos), check out my Facebook:

UPDATE: There was also a fun snowball fight yesterday that we missed out on … and then it turned a little bizarre, with a police officer pulling a gun! Crazy.

Here’s the fun snowball fight part:

Daniel Berrigan: An Advent Reflection

Passed on by some friends of mine, here’s an Advent reflection from Daniel Berrigan, poet, peace activist and Catholic priest:

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss —
This is true: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction —
This is true: “I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.”

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever —
This is true: “For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.”

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world —
This is true: “To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.”

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers.
This is true: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.”

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and
peace are not meant for this earth and for this history —
This is true: “The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope.

Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage:

Jesus Christ, the Life of the world.

Verses quoted are, in order: John 3:16, John 10:10, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:17, and John 4:23.