it’s 4 weeks until christmas. hard to believe. i know it’s a really sucky time of year for a lot of people. the darkness sets in, depression about money, relationships, life stuff, and the reality of how hard it is to pull off this life somehow becomes more apparent. for me, the holidays usually just feel overwhelming. too many things to do, the days are shorter, the list of to-dos are longer, and next thing i know it’s new years eve and i missed the reason for the season completely. so i am glad the refuge is going to journey together through an advent guide (put together by our friends at urban skye) for the next 4 weeks leading up to christmas. i need the help. i need the focus. i need to turn my eyes and heart and mind toward Jesus and not kohl’s and target and all the things i didn’t do this year that i had meant to. for the first christmas in a long time i feel a tug in my heart, a deeper desire than usual to peel away all of the crap and distractions and help me remember Jesus.
one of the things i have always loved the most about Jesus is he always attracted the outcasts, the outsiders, the unlikelies. in week one of the urban skye advent guide, we meet the magi (aka the 3 wise men). i always forget that they were total pagans, magicians, astrologers, men as far away from jewish culture as you could possibly get. yet, they were drawn. they heard that the messiah was being born & they just picked up and started following a star. they were drawn toward bethlehem. mystically. magically. a powerful tug to “get to him.”
i think that is how Jesus always was for the outcasts. when i look at all of the people in the gospels who were drawn to him, it was always the ones on the outside of “religion” that couldn’t get to him fast enough. like moths to the flame, the losers, the shameful, the sick, the lame, the naughty moved toward Jesus while the religious were repelled by him. the outcasts dropped everything, made their ways through the crowd, climbed trees, were lowered through roofs, crashed parties, followed stars to get to him. they almost couldn’t help themselves. when i was new to my faith i was the same way. full of shame and self-hatred i would do almost anything i could to get to Jesus. i was desperately drawn.
and then the weirdest thing happened—over time i moved from being an outsider to an insider. i learned the rules, i integrated into the “system,” and over time i systematically lost some of the real passion and need for him that started me on my journey. i know this is typical for a lot of people, i am not unique, but i began to need “church” and structures and approval in systems instead of needing Jesus. the beauty and mystery and desperation dissipated into orderliness. “do these things and you will be a real christian.”
i don’t know what a real christian is anymore. the definitions i used to use definitely don’t make sense to me any longer. i am redefining everything i have learned. but i do know that it is easy to move from outsider to insider and miss the whole point. i also know that people these days are not drawn like a moth toward the blazing flame of the church. in fact, they are running in the opposite direction.
but i think people are still drawn in crazy ways toward Jesus. the christmas story, when i really take a step back and look at it, reminds me that what we think, what the system, the world thinks, is usually not what God thinks. through Jesus, God turned all of that upside down and shows us that it is in the most unlikely person we find our saviour.
so i find myself this december in awe of the magi, 3 men drawn to a messiah who was not born in a palace and swathed in royal robes. instead he was just a little simple baby boy born surrounded by stinky animals & hay. no pomp, no circumstance. no arrogance. just a humble birth under the stars that somehow changed the world forever. i’ll never fully get my head around all the ins and outs of Jesus’ virgin birth and the wild things that followed. sometimes when i tell the story out loud, i am like “yeah, it’s a wacky one, that’s for sure, pretty unreal and hard to get our head around.” i wish as christians we’d be more honest about how crazy the story really is!
but here’s what feels real to me. more real maybe than ever. when i look, listen, still my heart, i’m sort of like a moth to the flame, like the magi following the star…. i keep getting drawn his direction. in need of the hope he somehow offers. the beauty he points to despite the ugliness. the light he seems to bring in the midst of darkness.