Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent: You Had To Be There!

In the late 1970's Jimmy Buffett was just another artist trying to make a living. This was before there were Parrotheads, before he became a best-selling author, restaurant owner or tequila guru. But even way back then, his concerts were not shows- they were events. The late Dan Fogelberg, a friend of Jimmy's, was once asked to describe what it was like to see him live. Fogelberg responded that no explanation could possibly do it justice. He couldn't describe it.  Dan said,  "You had to be there!" Jimmy liked that so much that it became the title of his 1978 live album, which was the first (of MANY) Buffett albums I have owned.

Over the years those words became a sort of personal mantra for my student ministries. We never wanted the teenagers who went on trips or attended events at the churches to feel like we were just going through the motions. We wanted them to feel like they were a part of something unique, something special, something that had not happened before and might not happen again. I wanted them to walk into school on Monday morning and talk about how amazing youth group had been the night before. And when their friends asked for explanations, I wanted them to feel like words were not adequate. All that could be said was, "You had to be there!" Right or wrong, it always felt that any method of reaching students that was predictable or too tame was destined to fail. Jesus himself was always unpredictable and always pushing the envelope of what was acceptable. As the Jesus Revolution gained momentum throughout the region in those three years Jesus spent preaching and teaching, you just know that as the word spread from town to town about this amazing Rabbi people were at a loss for words. How could they describe what they were seeing? I suspect that more than one person fell back on these words- "You had to be there!"

Today is the first day of Advent, a day when many churches will light a candle of hope. It is a time when our churches need to help our communities experience that hope through the awe and wonder of the coming of the Christ child. We need to help our world see that Jesus was not just a baby, but the most powerful agent of change ever to come into this world. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and rest to the weary. The power, love and grace of the Messiah cannot be contained in a manger. The story of the first Noel should inspire awe and wonder. Because I guarantee you that a few days later, as the town of Bethlehem was still buzzing and attempting to figure out what had happened, someone asked one of the smelly shepherds who witnessed the whole event to explain. And it seems likely that the shepherd thought a moment, smiled, and then said to anyone who cared to listen- "There is no explanation. You just had to be there!" This Advent season may we remember the miracles and the blessings of that first holy night, and the hope that Jesus brought into each of our lives. Amen & Amen.

My Deliverer is Coming...

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