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1st Sunday in Advent -- Zion's Advent Pilgrimage

One of the things about road trips I love is reading—getting a good hunk of time to read as Paul drives me down highway after highway, past pastures and herds of cattle and goats, headed someplace. But I find the place I am in is equally enjoyable—time with Paul and a good book.  I began reading the late Rachel Held Evans book WHOLEHEARTED FAITH this week while on such a journey.  Early in this book, Rachel shares that she is a Christian because “a teenage girl living in occupied Palestine at one of the most dangerous moments in history said yes, yes to a wholehearted call.”  It is because of that young Mary as well as many other women in our scriptures and in the history of the faith and in her own lineage that Rachel was a Christian. 

In reading her words I realized that I agree—I also can say that I am a Christian today because of those who have come before me.  Starting with my parents and drawing a long list of those who have shared their experiences, understandings, questions, concerns, doubts and beliefs, I am a person of faith because others, like Mary and those on my list of influencers, said yes to God, yes to walking a journey that is like no other—one of faith. 

Today we begin the advent journey--- 27 days in 2021 where we are invited into this journey of discovery.  We are invited to look around us, ask what God is teaching and WHERE IS GOD?  We are invited into this sacred moment as we prepare for our Lord’s coming, counting the days to our Christmas Feast and the heavenly banquet that Christ promised.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s email, we are invited on a corporate pilgrimage—to walk with fellow disciples to welcome our King.  We are invited to join an advent fast:  making more room for God, however we do it, learning to give more of our life to God! 

And this got me thinking about our theme for Zion’s Advent pilgrimage theme—THE INN:  HOUSING THE HOLY because today, on this First Sunday of Advent, our phrase is specifically “Making Room” as we begin this journey towards the manger and the birth of our Lord.  We have to make room for the birthing of God into our life anew, for this time in our individual and collective lives….  How can we see God’s story in new ways?  No matter what the world is selling us, no matter what stories we are being told… Are we going to trust God’s story?   

Let’s start with ourselves first…. What can you and I do to engage in this time in a manner that is story affirming?  As we gather around the prophets and the words of hope like we heard in today’s Psalm, can we hear them telling us to make more room?  More room in our hearts for the Lord of all Creation?  In order to make more room, what is it that needs to be cleared out first?  What is there that doesn’t need to be, that is taking up valuable real estate in our hearts and minds?   

I recently decided that my many pairs of pants that filled my drawers would never be worn by me so I bagged them up and gave them away….   There was not enough room for the ones that fit and the ones that didn’t….  Is that true of my inner being as well?  Am I stuffed full of things that do not serve me?  That need to be removed, cleaned out. To make room for the Holy?   

And how about us collectively?  Let’s think about the night that Luke shares so eloquently in his gospel, the night that Christ was born.  Mary and Joseph were forced to travel to Bethlehem to be counted, the occupying Romans needed to update the census for taxes and such.  Imagine a very pregnant Mary arriving only to find that everyone else who had been asked to return to their ancestorial home had beat them….  There was no room for them!  Imagine Joseph desperately searching for a room with a bed…. Until an innkeeper thought “there had to be something HE could do!  There has to be someplace for this expecting mother!  We too are invited to be a beacon of hope for others.  We too are asked to think about what we can do to alleviate someone’s suffering!  The light of the Star of Bethlehem shone bright on the INN that housed the Holy Family and we too are invited to imagine what the Light of Christ is illuminating in our context!  As I thought of today’s theme as we enter this season of Advent and this worship series The INN:  Housing the Holy, I found myself marveling at the Holy Spirit once again.   

Because literally we are being asked to house some holy people of God as well.  Back in August Pastor Clay contacted me and asked if we would consider opening up our fellowship hall as an emergency warming center in the event that this coming winter, we have extreme cold weather that would be life threatening to the homeless.  I don’t know if you remember but last year we had one such storm and a man froze to death under the highway bridge.  The City of Trinidad has yet to offer emergency shelters to the homeless who find themselves in this community so would Zion’s consider being a last resort emergency warming center in the event that another storm like that happens this winter??  Well, a group was created to consider this need and we met with a group from the community who works with the homeless and a man who ran for mayor.  A draft agreement was created, tweaked a few times with very specific concerns addressed and Zion’s Council will consider it at our next meeting in two weeks. We did not know that our Advent series The Inn would literally be talking about housing those who do not have needed shelter!  But we are called to make room in OUR INNS- to create a welcoming space for the flourishing of humanity in our corner of the world!  That is what the inn, the stable, the manger became that night….  Maybe our fellowship hall will be so as well.  Together we can offer more room in THE INN OF GOD”S LOVE. 

We did not go out seeking this opportunity to serve our neighbors, they have come to us.   And in case you’re thinking that the homeless could never be the ones who bear the image of God, I’ll have to challenge you.  Do we not claim that God has created ALL people and that in each one of us is the incarnate God?  So the homeless that we might help are absolutely image bearers of God--- they are holy ones of God too!  And without a roof in extreme weather, they might freeze to death.  Can we be creative and think like that inn keeper, surely there must be something we can do?  What an opportunity for us to literally consider housing the holy….   A need has presented and we’re shining the light of Christ, being a beacon of hope, caring for those in our midst who have a very specific need. 

Well,  I started by sharing about the advent season and how we are all called to do individual and corporate holy work.  I invite you to not do one or the other but both!