Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Work of Christmas: Revival2011!

If you’ve listened to sermons or paid attention to some of the cards and posters I’ve noticed over the years, you may be familiar with Howard Thurman’s marvelous words that help us imagine a Christmas that does not end, but begins:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

On my street we see who is the fastest to get their Christmas tree undecorated and out to the curb. This year, one appeared, felled, on Christmas morning! The dumpsters and recycling bins are overflowing, the round of visits conclude and we are back to work, back to school – we’re back to normal.

And yet the normalcy of the time when the song of the angels is stilled is peculiar. We wear a new sweater. We are sporting a few new pounds – so we redouble our resolve to exercise and eat oatmeal instead of Moravian sugarcake. Maybe we make New Year’s resolutions, although I suspect this custom is going out of style – as we are a cynical people, or at least we recall previous years’ resolutions and how they never came to fruition.

And yet maybe, just maybe, the turn in the calendar feels like a new chapter, a new beginning, getting out of bed onto what just might be a new day, that 2011 might be the year we get there, somewhere over some rainbow, and things calm down, we calm down, we find new love, we become fit or finally find work or eventually discover why we exist. Methodists for decades got people to come to worship on New Year’s Eve, and make pretty courageous commitments to become prayerful, holy, to find the lost, feed the hungry, bring peace and make music in the heart.

I believe God told me, when I was in Utah back in August, to make 2011 a year that won’t be just another year, but the year you and I and others get serious about God and the life of faith, when we stop poking around the edges, or play-acting, or dabbling in spirituality, and become joyful, dogged, happy, committed followers of Christ. Revival2011 is this simple thing, and you can think of it as the Work of Christmas: give me 15 days, and I deeply believe that nothing will ever be the same. It’s hard in our skeptical culture to say such a thing – but I really believe this.

On January 9, at 7 pm, we are having a revival, not old-timey in its form (we’ll have cool music, video, dance…), but hopefully compelling in its invitation to make a big decision. But all big decisions live or die by a whole series of little decisions – and over the following 2 weeks I’ll walk us through those little decisions that are big! By January 23, if you’ve given us 15 days, I believe you’ll be glad you invested the energy, to give Jesus and a serious, joyful faith a chance.

It's not about becoming perfect: forget that! It's not about knowing everything; you may well harbor nagging questions - intellectual questions, or profoundly emotional, personal questions - that keep you at some distance from God. I will offer myself entirely to you in person or online to try to wrestle with you on these - and to help us see we don't have to have every answer before we can follow. Every relationship has its questions and uncertanties - but we still love.

And Why Jesus? Spirituality takes countless forms, so why bother with a guy who lived 2000 years ago, and is much derided in bestselling books and movies these days? I will try to share primarily my own personal story of why I care about Jesus, why my whole life is about at least trying to follow Jesus - why I love Jesus. I'm just asking you to hang with me, be open, grow, grapple, dig, reflect, take the time to do Revival2011 with me.

It’s the Work of Christmas, and now it begins. It will be some work, for you to come, or catch our online versions! – and the result will be that music in the heart you might have been missing all these Christmases and New Years.