Advent: Fighting the Darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
– John 1:5

This past Sunday, we lit the third of the Advent candles, the Christ candle. I was struck by the smallness of the flame. This one candle couldn’t come close to lighting our sanctuary. The tiny flame barely gives enough light to read by without serious eye strain. Watching the candle flickering, as if it were boxing some unseen power, trying to snuff it out, I wondered, “What’s the point?”

What difference is one candle going to make in a world so filled with darkness? In the presence of so many enemies who seem determined to destroy any and all light? It would only be a matter of time before the candle would go out and the world would seem even darker than before.

Then it hit me.

The candle isn’t fighting back the darkness. That battle was fought on another day—when the world could not stop Christ from being born. That battle will be finished on another day—when Christ returns and destroys death and darkness once and for all.

So, why do we light the candle?

– We light the candle for the rest of the world who think darkness is all there is.
– We light the candle so they can see our faces and know we are still here. So they will come close, and we will listen to their stories and know their names.
– We light the candle so they will come closer and know there is still hope. They will discover that darkness doesn’t rule everywhere.

We light the candle of hope, and like the prophets before us, we wait.

We light the candle, huddled close together and we wait until He comes—grateful for the light of our candle and its silent testimony that it’s not dark everywhere.

Soon the light will be revealed and darkness shattered, if we are patient. If we do not give up hope. If we make sure the candle stays lit.

On the Road to Emmaus, Pt. 4

Check out other posts in this series about postmodern evangelism:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

It happens whenever I am having dinner with friends. There is that awkward moment when the server brings the food, the plates are set in front of us, we marvel at our order (or wish we had ordered what a friend did) and then…We all look at each other and wonder if someone is going to suggest we say a prayer.

In this moment, what would Jesus do?

Believe it or not, we have a story in which Jesus was faced with such an awkward moment. He was eating dinner with two friends He had just met on the road to Emmaus. Their food was brought to them and then—then Jesus prayed. Jesus did what was normal and natural to Him. He gave thanks.

We have lots of stories of Jesus beginning a meal by offering a blessing of thanks. One of the most famous stories is the feeding of the five thousand. Remember? Jesus took the little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish, and He blessed them.

Prayers of thanksgiving were a natural and authentic part of Jesus’ life and His relationship with His Father. When He arrived in Emmaus, He simply did what He did all of the time.

Here’s the fourth lesson: Jesus practiced His relationship with His Father in full view of others.

Christians, we have been told to downplay the ways we express our faith in everyday rituals such as saying a blessing before meals. When we do this, it backfires. People who watch us compromise our faith in real life situations conclude that our faith must not be important to us. We preach gratitude, but we don’t give thanks. We preach fidelity, but aren’t faithful. So if our faith isn’t important to us, why should anyone else take it seriously?

Evangelism in the postmodern setting is a total life expression.

– Yes, we have to be able to give words to our faith, but our lives must back up our verbal witness.
– This is the basic definition of integrity: our words and our lives don’t contradict themselves.

With all of the very public failings of well-known Christian personalities, don’t be surprised if this method takes longer than you think it should. People are skeptical, which makes it all the more important that we live out our love for Christ consistently and authentically. We shouldn’t be obnoxious about it. You don’t have to sing your blessing in the local diner, but you do have to be quietly faithful.

Believe it or not, this quiet consistency will open up more opportunities to continue the discussion.

In postmodern evangelism, people are listening to your whole life.

Today’s assignment: Let your life speak.

It speaks it many ways — how you spend your money, how you spend your time, how you react under stress, how you drive, how you eat, how you rest, how you make decisions, how you pray. What is your life saying about your relationship with God?

I’ll be back with the last lesson.

On the Road to Emmaus, Pt.3

Check out other posts in this series about postmodern evangelism:
Part 1 | Part 2

As I continue to study the actions of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, I recognize similar patterns in my conversations with the young adults who attend Kairos.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. (Luke 24:28-29)

Now, as Jesus completes His explanation of His life, ministry, death and resurrection from the Scriptures, He appears to be walking on—until Cleopas and his friend insist Jesus joins them for dinner.

Here’s the third lesson: Jesus waited for an invitation.

– He didn’t assume He was wanted.
– He waited to be asked.

When you think about it, this kindness of Jesus is astounding. How gracious to recognize the personal space and freedom of Cleopas and his friend. Our Lord does not barge in. He waits to be invited.

I have learned from His example. Sometimes, when I am talking to a young adult about the gospel, the story will be so new to them they will not be able to digest it all. They will want some time to think about it. So, they will create some space. Maybe they will take longer to answer a text or an email. Perhaps they will be too busy to talk for a few weeks. This used to frustrate me until I understood the lesson Jesus is teaching in this moment.

People will let you know when they are ready to go to the next level.

– Go as far as they will let you.
– Go deep into the conversation.
– Then, wait.

There are a lot of Scriptures about how God waits for us, none as dramatic as the Father waiting for the prodigal son’s return. There are times when postmodern evangelism requires waiting. But this waiting isn’t just sitting. No, while we are waiting, we pray and we study. When the invitation comes—and it most likely will—we need to be, as Jesus was, ready to continue the conversation.

Today’s assignment: Look for the invitation.

Who are you walking with? Who are you talking about real life stuff with? Have they invited you to have coffee? Hang out? Do you sense they are ready to continue the conversation? Watch for the invitation.

Or maybe you’re already deep in conversation about really significant stuff with somebody. And they’ve backed off. Wait. Pray. Pray for them and get yourself ready for what comes next. Let them process. Watch for the invitation to continue on. It will come!

I’ll be back with Lesson 4 from the Emmaus Road.