Patience in Advent

The season of Advent is all about patience as we prepare to celebrate the Christ’s entry into our world so long ago in Bethlehem and anticipate his coming in final glory at the end of the age when God establishes his Kingdom.  The problem is that most of us (including myself) are not very patient. We live in the instant age where we can pull our smartphones out of our pockets and look anything up, anywhere and anytime.  We can order something from Amazon and have it delivered the next day for $3.99 (if you are an Amazon Prime member).  Amazon and Google have even started rolling out same day delivery to select cities in the country so lucky customers only have to wait a few hours to receive their purchase. We can stream millions of songs instantly via Pandora or Spotify and get sneak peaks at unreleased albums that the artist has just finished recording.   We can download a movie from the internet to watch in just a few seconds.  No more driving to the video rental store and waiting in line to check it out. We can choose from a smorgasbord of pre-prepared meals from the the grocery store and pop them in the oven instead of diligently gathering the necessary ingredients and following the step by step instructions of a recipe and then waiting for it to finish cooking. For these and so many other reasons we are terrible at waiting and have become extremely impatient as a society.

Nowhere is this impatience more on display that the Christmas season which retailers now start decorating for the day before Halloween.  My kids haven’t had a chance to collect their candy and come down from the resulting sugar buzz before Santa, Christmas lights and holiday music appear in stores.  Some churches start singing Christmas carols on the first Sunday of Advent rather than dwell for a time in the slower, less joyful hymns of Advent.  And so we rush around in a constant state of stress because we can’t and won’t slow down.  Indeed some of us have forgotten how to do so.  

However we must recover the art of waiting and cultivation patience in this season of Advent if we are truly experience the joy of Christmas and the birth of our Savior.  The ancient Hebrews waited for centuries before the Messiah appeared. Surely we can wait a few weeks to bask in the joy of Christmas.  Join me in trying to slow down this month and work to linger more in the moment.  Let us try to recover what it was like to wait for something we knew we wanted and deeply needed.  If we can do it we will find that Christmas is even more joyful and our shouts of praise will be even more exuberant when the Christ child is born into our hearts once again.

Juggling

A few weeks ago we launched a new sermon series at the church entitled, “Burnout or Refuel.” Our hope was that this sermon series would offer some help to those dealing with burnout.  It was also our hope that this series would help to prevent it from happening because seeking the ounce of prevention is always better than the living through the pound of cure.  With that in mind, I would like to share a metaphor for thinking about how we manage the competing demands on our time and the various roles that we have in life.

Many people have described life as a juggling act where balls represent the various things for which we are responsible and our job is to keep them in the air for as long as possible.  However, a few years ago I came across a time management expert who extended the image a little further.  He suggested that the balls that we are trying to keep in the air are not actually made of the same material.  Some are made of glass in that they will break if we let them hit the ground while others are made of rubber in that they will bounce if we let them drop.  The challenge is that the balls switch between glass and rubber depending on their priority at any given time.  Our job is not to keep all the balls in the air all the time as that is impossible to do for an indefinite period of time.  If we try to do it we will burn ourselves out.  Plus, we will eventually slip up and let one or more balls drop.  That is a given. But if we remember that some of the balls we have in the air are made of rubber then we can let them hit the ground knowing that they will rebound and instead focus our efforts on the fragile glass balls that will shatter if they the ground.

The key to avoiding burnout is to discern which balls are made of glass and rubber at any given time.  Such discernment will take some work as the fragility or resilience of the various aspects of our lives is always in flux but for the most part not every ball that we have in air is made of glass.  Some will bounce and we should let that happen if it makes the difference between burning ourselves out and letting all the balls hit the ground or surviving to juggle another day.

Gate of the Poor and the Teaching Steps

On Monday afternoon we traveled to the Jerusalem Archeological Park which includes the Temple Mount. We spent time learning about the Gate of the Poor and the Teaching Steps where Jesus would have likely entered the Temple.
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20130524-114812.jpg These stones are from the Temple (specifically the Second Temple, rebuilt by Herod the Great) that Jesus visited when he came to Jerusalem. These huge stones were cast down from the Temple Mount when the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD.
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Herod's builders used some of the natural bedrock in the construction of the Teaching Steps leading up to the Temple Mount. Jesus would have walked on this step as he entered the Temple through the Gate of the Poor. We all took turns standing on this step.
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Qumran

Sunday was a busy day as we left Jericho and drove further into the wilderness of Judea to the shores of the Dead Sea. There we explored the ruins of Qumran, the Essene monastery where the Dead Sea Scrolls were collected and written.

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The Essenes hid their scrolls in the nearby caves, anticipating an attack by Roman forces during the First Jewish Roman War.

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