It has been a tough weekend in the suburbs of San Diego. As you may have heard from news reports, a teenager, somehow influenced by hate, murdered a women and hurt others at a synagogue in Poway, CA. A block from San Diego City limits and just a short drive from Escondido where we call home.
We deplore hateful violence. There is no quarter for it in the church and we must actively and repeatedly communicate that such animus for other image-bearers is anti-Christ.
But it was so close to home. The alleged terrorist grew up in a neighborhood called Rancho Penasquitos, graduated from a good high school and was a member of a church in Escondido. A church, reformed in doctrine, certainly proclaiming the gospel, and meeting on the campus of respected seminary. The synagogue is the same neighborhood where members of our church live… this happened on our streets, where we do our best to flourish.
There will be much time for processing and working in the community for healing and I am thankful for the group of local pastors striving toward that end.
As I reflect on this today, I am struck by how quickly culturally we will move on from this tragedy and how active we must be to prevent it from happening again. But also that the gospel empowers us to keep on, to speak for justice in every day life.
Before my sermon at Reservoir yesterday I shared my joy at returning to the normal life of the church:
Coming off of Easter I was reminded in my own heart of the draw toward experience. The big Sunday, the whizbang sermon, the emphasis we put on special events. But more so I reflected on the reality that faith is lived out in community, in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, happiness and sorrows of life. And the gospel, the good news of Jesus speaks to and holds us up in all of it.
It is a relief. Because we need holding up. We need spiritual power for every moment of life, especially those with such darkness.
Something rather strange has come over me this fall. If you have known me for long enough, you would know that the preparation and celebration of Christmas, at least in my opinion, is meant for a very specific block of the calendar that falls just after Thanksgiving and ends immediately after Christmas dinner. My wife has called me a Scrooge, and I have been fine with the title.
Enter 2016. This has been an interesting year. On the home front it has been wonderful. Our big focus was adoption and now Adia is home with us and advancing by leaps and bounds. The big kids are great with their sister and all three are such a joy to parent. Stacy has taken on so much and handled it all with grace and poise. Even the dogs are doing awesome!
For all of its goodness 2016 has also been a hard year. Sickness and hospital visits/stay for the littles. Some difficult transitions of families from our church. And friends that have faced devastating prognoses, relocations, heartbreak, death, you name it. Add a layer of political and racial unrest in our country and wham… we are ready for something better.
So I sit here typing in a room fully decorated for Christmas. I have been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks and all around I can’t wait for Christmas. The food, the laughter, the joy, the glorious reminder of Immanuel the God with us; all of the wonderful things Christmas promises. In fact I am thankful that I have the longing for them because it tells me I am built to long for better, for truer things.
This is what Christmas should be for us. The thankful anticipation we have on this side of the cross. Thankful for the accomplished work of our redemption by the Savior that entered the scene as a child born unto us. Anticipating his return, the final restoration of all things, the end of sin, heartbreak, cancer, war and hurt. Reminded of it in every sip of egg nog and song sung round the fire…pit.
I invite you to join me in the longing. The celebration of what we have been given and the future we will see. Anticipate it with me. Revel in the goodness of a God who dwells in our mess, in the pain, in order to rescue us from it. Go ahead… sing Silent Night and rejoice!