e-letter 12/7/18

I call it “the stack” and I despise it. The stack is located on the little desk area in my kitchen. It is the place where we “stack” the mail that is brought in day after day after day. Most of it is junk. When I bring the mail in, I stop at the trash can in the garage and immediately throw away what I’m not interested in. Of course, there is some stuff I “might” be interested in so that stays in the pile. Scott, being the thoughtful husband that he is, brings it all into the house, fearing that he might throw away something that I am interested in: coupons for something I might need, advertisements to my favorite shopping haunts. I get it. But no matter what we do or don’t do, the stack always grows. At this point in our lives, we don’t have time to deal with the stack on a daily basis. So, it sits and grows. Whenever I know someone is coming to my house, (like this Friday evening I’m hosting the staff and staff parish Christmas Party) I move the stack, usually stuffing it in a drawer to keep it out of sight. It is an eyesore that is not fit for public viewing and that begs to be dealt with.  
Eventually, I cave in and deal with it.  I sort through the stack piece by piece, throwing away the junk, saving what is necessary and putting it away in its proper place. It’s not a fun job, which is why the stack grows.  
Our hearts and lives can be a bit like “the stack.” Stuff tends to accumulate and pile up there. Some stuff that we want, other stuff that we don’t. But its easy to ignore the pile. In the business of the everyday and immediate, its easy to ignore the junk that gets piled up in our lives. Sometimes we try to contain it, hide it, keep it out of sight from our friends and neighbors. We aren’t sure ourselves what is in there. We certainly don’t want others to see it.  
Part of the work of preparing for the coming of Christ into our lives and world, which is the focus of Advent, involves looking at and dealing with the stuff that accumulates in our hearts. It involves taking a spiritual inventory of our thoughts, feelings and actions and owning what is good, what reflects God’s best intentions for us, and what doesn’t. It involves being honest with ourselves about our lives and our world and owning the reality of what needs to change.  
That is why the scripture lessons for Advent always invite us to spend some time out in the wilderness with John the Baptist listening to his one note song, “Repent”.  John invites us to deal with “the stack”. To look at our lives, to look at our world, and own the reality of what is not right, what is out of sync with God’s will for us. He invites us to get ready for Christ’s coming by clearing away the clutter, straightening out that which is crooked, making smooth that which is potholed and bumpy.  
This week in worship we will continue in our Advent/Christmas message series, “It’s a Wonderful Life” by joining John out in the wilderness and discovering what it means for us to repent, to turn around, and live a new and different way in response to the coming of Christ.  I invite you to read Luke 2:1-11 and Malachi 3:1-5 in preparation for worship and ask yourself some questions: What are the habits, attitudes, behaviors that I need to shed this year? In what ways do I need to “turn around” (to repent means to “turn around”) in order to be true to who God is calling me to be? What is the fruit that I need to bear as a sign of my repentance, my intentions to live my life on God’s terms and not my own?  
We all have a “stack” of stuff in our lives that begs to be dealt with. Jesus knows it is there. We can’t hide it from him the way I can just hide the stack from my guests. Jesus instead invites us to allow him to go with us in the process of cleaning out the stack, letting him guide us in what to keep and what to let go of. He will also help us in the turning around, the changing part, as well. He loves us. He loves this world. He came to make it and us, better. In his grace, he invites us to deal with “the stack” knowing that underneath all the clutter, is the wonderful life he longs for all of us to know.
See you in worship Sunday as we continue the journey of Advent and the discovery of the wonderful life that we have all received in Jesus Christ.  
Grace and Peace,