It's Advent! (Day 331, Year 2)

Picture it: You and your family are desperately trying to do an Irish goodbye and ghost out of a church event. But you cannot because:

1. A lovely woman has been scrubbing the outside of your crockpot for 45 minutes. The outside of the crockpot has never been scrubbed and you store it in the garage. The crockpot was used to transport a bangin' batch of french onion soup. The crockpot already appears cleaner than it was out of the box; but the woman won't stop! Every time you go into the kitchen to suggest she stops, she waves you away. 

2. A lovely man is currently boxing up the greens you foraged from the railroad tracks (definite an illegal theft of some sort in the name of the Lord!) and those greens are on your beloved industrial moving blanket that you use to transport all sorts of things (like bodies, JOKING!!). He will not allow you to help him because he says there is poison ivy on the greens. You cannot be identified as the one who brought poison ivy to church event. NOTE: THERE WAS NOT POISON IVY! I am a bit of a church poison ivy expert--as once I got poison ivy from a Youth Group bonfire, which contained poison ivy and missed a month of school!  However, you cannot waste time arguing, because you are Presbyterian (and this isn't the way!) and you know arguing will take longer than waiting. 

3. Your lovely daughter is having a theological debate with her former Sunday School teacher, in a very intense way. You heard them shouting and ABSOLUTELY CANNOT GET INVOLVED IN THAT SCENE. 

You are stuck. You cannot leave. As a result, you are trapped into helping the folding chair cleanup, which is no small feat. You also know that you should help with this anyway, lest you be judged as a bad Presbyterian! You already overheard someone say, "LOOKS LIKE THEY ARE ALL READY TO GO" and look at you in a very judgmental way! 

The folding chair cleanup requires at least 37 Presbyterians who will turn the chairs back and forth in the rack, internally debating which is the correct direction to ensure all the chairs stack. No one will say out loud "YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG" or take direct leadership. There will be on the spot chair clean-up committee meetings. 

The chair clean-up takes FOREVER, especially because everyone stops to take a committee vote. But, the woman is still cleaning the crockpot, your daughter is still arguing about Jesus and, of course, the man is now in a hazmat suit and telling everyone to turn back and stay clear of the poison ivy covered Advent Wreath greens you obtained illegally from railroad property (but in the name of the Lord!). 

All of this is why church gives me such joy. 

Sure, there is the connection with God and the saving words of Jesus and the forgiveness and the promise of Heaven and all that Bible-y stuff. But what a church really gives me is community and family. I can go there anytime, for any event and know that I will be walking into a community of sinners and saints, all at once. I will see people I don't know that well, but that I know have prayed for me and for the people I added to my prayer list. I will see friends whom I love like family, who are hurting, but I know can be cheered by church silliness and gossip in the same way I am. I can also trust that I will absolutely offend 17 people; but they will still pray for me. 

I think that last part is the best part of it all--this Advent season, when we prepare ourselves to remember the coming of the Christ child, we also prepare ourselves for the coming of the wonderful and the difficult people in our lives. We will be offended and offend. We will be frustrated and stressed and also be the source of frustration and stress; but when the spirit of Advent is in our hearts we will also pray for those same people who drove us nuts. 

Advent is a time of welcoming all of God's Kingdom into your hearts--it is the literal birth of forgiveness and eternal life and theological debates and laughter and miracles and healing and discipleship and foot washing and water into wine. 

Tonight, I am, of course, praying that I am correct about no poison ivy, that the railroad does not arrest us, that my lovely daughter keeps debating Jesus everyday of her life, that I thanked that lovely lady enough for her service to my crockpot and that lovely man for his service protecting us all from the poison ivy (which wasn't there! I think!), for the wonderful friend who is hurting, for the wonderful friend who put the entire Advent festival together for the last five years and for all the wonderful members of my church who make that place a home and a community.