Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. 1 Peter 22a NASB
Carols have begun! On the last day of November, I wheeled Mom down to a Christmas concert at Emerald Heights. Residents were singing and playing ukuleles. It was my first group carol sing of the season though I’ve been singing Christmas carols with/to Mom since before Thanksgiving. Advent is all the things I love about Christmas with none of the Excessmas.
It’s a good news time. An angel said it, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
Most people around me do not know this good news. For example, this week, I had this conversation with a staff member at the door of the nursing home where Mom lives.
“How are you?” they said. “How was your Thanksgiving?”
“Great!” And I add, “I’m in a good mood because I love Advent!”
“Advent?” says one. “What’s that?”
“It’s a whole month of anticipating Christmas and thinking about it.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“We light candles each Sunday and have a theme for the week like Peace, Hope, Joy . . “
“Oh, it’s a church thing?”
“Yes, it’s a church thing.”
“That’s why I’ve never heard of it!”
People don’t know about Jesus. So, tell them! Be like the shepherds “glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen.” (Luke 2:21)
But, I’m in conflict. One roadblock is that the sadness of the world is so much a part of me. Over the past four years, many that I love have been sick or dying. Beyond my own concerns, the world is full of grief and pain. I tear up a lot, especially when I read Scripture or pray. I feel closest to Jesus in sadness. My truest prayer seems to be, “I wish You were here.” How can I share such a sad gospel?
Maybe I’m stuck between the death of Lazarus and his resurrection. When Jesus showed up to the wake for Lazarus, Martha and Mary, separately, each said this:
Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11: 21, 32 NASB
If only Jesus had been there, physically there, Lazarus would not have died. While he was dying, Martha and Mary might have been thinking of Jesus with longing, “I wish You were here!”
There’s a story of a little boy praying for someone to be with him. His mother says, “God is always with you.” The boy replies, “I want someone with skin on.”
Mary and Martha knew that Jesus “with skin on” would have prevented Lazarus’ death. I believe it. Even Jesus thought so! (John 11:6)
Part of the answer to my sad gospel is that there is sadness in the gospel. I need only read Isaiah 53 and the gospels to see all the conflict and rejection and physical pain Jesus experienced.
Another part of the answer to my sad gospel is that we’re not to live the gospel in isolation.
Last Sunday in church, we prayed for a very sick teenage boy. Afterwards, Pastor Mark mentioned in passing the story of the paralytic. The four friends tore a roof apart to bring him to Jesus. Pastor Mark said this is the body of Christ bearing burdens together.
One of the staff at the nursing home told me about a recent break-up. “I’m sorry to bring you down,” he said. “No, not at all. I’m so glad to hear it and be able to pray.”
The Jesus “with skin on” is present in the body of Christ bearing burdens together. This is good, even great news, even if we’re crying together. “There I am in your midst,” says Jesus.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 NASB
That’s a gospel I can live and talk about.