Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″
One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turned the world on its head. We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness which he certainly does. But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways. In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53). At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.
Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).
This week I learned about the death of Don Victor, a pastor who answered God’s call on his life to be in ministry of people in a shantytown. I’ve been reflecting on his ministry this week.
Where pavement meets gravel in Cartago, Costa Rica, is where you enter the shantytown of Los Diques. This is a place where people with no other means go. Families escaping abusive fathers. Mothers addicted to drugs. Grandmothers raising grandchildren. Young boys whose only way out is to join a gang; young girls whose only way out is to sell themselves. And this is a place the government would rather not exist, which is why they have been so reluctant over the years to give the basic necessities for these people.
Yet, none of this mattered to Don Victor.
There was a major controversy in the early church ( something I know we are not accustomed to today). Luke documents the controversy in Acts 15. There was one major division between Jew and Gentile.
The Acts 15 controversy centered on whether Gentile Christians should go through the same rituals that the Jewish Christians did. It was an issue of what qualified someone to be welcomed into the community. The Jewish Christians were not recognizing the Gentile Christians membership in the church.
Walls are typically built for protection. Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, leads a huge undertaking in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The Great Wall of China was built to protect dynasties from invasions by surrounding tribes. We build fences around our yards to prevent the neighbor’s pets from trampling our lawns. Emotional walls are produced to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others.
Walls are protective.
When I was in high school, our senior high youth group were gathered together up in the youth room on a Sunday night. The group was planning an upcoming Youth Sunday. We were making decisions regarding scripture passages, hymns, and prayers to use. Then, the question was asked, “Who will do the sermon?”
Everyone avoided making eye contact with anyone.
Honestly, I had spent the bulk of the time avoiding eye contact. I was one of the youngest in the room. What did I have to contribute?
Then, from the other end of the table, one of the seniors spoke up and said, “I think Jason should do it.”
It was one of those moments where I was thrilled to be thought of, yet scared to death that they thought of me! I would accept and began working on the “sermon.” When I finished it, I gave it my youth leader to look over. She made some suggestions, among them, “Be careful not to put God in a box.”