Advent: Peace

This is the first of a four-part Advent devotional written by Executive Director Joe Tucker. 

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

I’ll confess something — I’m a sucker for the Holiday. If Christ was taken out of Christmas, I would still Fa-La-La over for the trees, movies, merriment, jingles, sleighbells, and presents. The festivities of the Holiday in many ways have eclipsed the traditions of advent. It’s easier for me to grab a peppermint mocha in a red cup, then take time to crack open the books of Luke or Matthew (or Isaiah for that matter) for an Advent devotional.

It’s easier to celebrate winter-time merriment than practice the waiting of Advent. I think of all my favorite Christmas-movies (Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Elf, and even Die Hard) all ending with families reunited singing or embracing each other.  I know for many families we ‘fake-it-until-we-make-it’ through the season to maintain that it is the most wonderful time of the year.

When it generally isn’t.

For many individuals (perhaps the majority of people?), the Holidays recollect pain, loss, and brokenness.  Holiday sentiment doesn’t begin to answer the inner-pain of a miscarriage, infidelity, addiction, abuse, or separation.  But does Advent? Does God?

One of the founding values of South Street is authenticity. We try to keep it real. This includes our theology — what we believe about God has to match reality. If Jesus is he Prince of Peace, then there should be some reality of peace in my life, if I consider myself his follower. That’s what the angels in Luke 2 proclaim, “peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When I ask the youth of After School what peace is to them the talk about a serene beach or a quiet meadow — images from commercials and movies. The real notion of peace seems distant in a small house crowded with 2 and a half families yet still struggling to make ends meet.  Moreover, the real notion of peace seems distant to me in a spacious house with a nuclear family in 2017!

What peace? Where is this real notion of peace to be found?  The practice of Advent slows us to find it … in a barn, with bleating animals and visitors from third-shift shepherds.  The angels proclaim peace, because it is not presently apparent.  It is the fool who claims peace, when there is none.  It is the faithful, the favored, who name peace by claiming it through Christ.

Let’s not pretend that all is well, from deep systemic issues and historic wrongs, to our own individual hurts. But peace is real. If we believe in virgin births, guiding stars, and angelic visitors, we can believe and act in real peace — peace that transcends understanding.

As enjoyable as Die Hard is to watch, a peppermint mocha is to taste, or Winter-Wonderland is to sing, there is a much deeper reality found in the Advent of Christ. This second week of Advent we lean deeper into the reality of peace.  

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Advent: Hope

This is the first of a four-part Advent devotional written by Executive Director Joe Tucker. 

 

The Tucker family had a long drive on Thanksgiving — from one corner of Ohio to the other to visit family.  We listened to Tish Harrison-Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary on our drive back from Dayton to Akron, and I was reminded of some of the depths and paradoxes of our faith.  

Waiting is one such paradox. We live between two Kingdoms — the Kingdom that is here and the Kingdom that is to come. Advent is a practice I have come to deeply value — principally because I am not good at waiting. I want quick responses to my e-mails. I stare as small dots blink on my iPhone waiting anxiously for the full response. Advent is a church-rhythm that leads us towards hope and expectation.

Over the past four years, the Tucker family has spent every other Advent season pregnant — expecting. It is perfect metaphor for God’s Kingdom, an expectant mother that knows the joy and fullness that is to come and waits for the full delivery of good news. I value the Advent practices of waiting, lighting candles, and thinking of what is to come.

What good news will God bring? What past promises still carry me today? What hope do we carry?

Hope has carried us this year at South Street Ministries. We hope in the Resurrection and in seeing lost ones again. We hope in Restoration for returning citizens (ex-felons), for recovering addicts, and for regimented do-gooders who do not know rest.  We Hope in the perfect Rest that is found in Christ — a Rest that stills our busy-ness with the simple, yet deep knowledge that He is God and we are not.

My propensity for quick results and responses stands in stark contrast to Advent. The Church has waited and waited for so long. And we continue to wait. We cry Maranatha (Come Lord Come) as we see the division, hate, and vitriol around us, yet still we wait.

The Hope of Advent does more than remind us to continue waiting. It bolsters and strengthens us to be God’s agents of change between two Kingdoms.  Thus we plant gardens and wait for fruit. We work with After School kids and address the same disciplinary issues again and again. We strive to maintain support for reentry and recovery and health and wholeness at the Front Porch Cafe to make sure there exists a place in-between for all peoples.  

The Hope of Advent reminds us that we are an in-between people. The work we do, from repairing a bicycle, to hosting a community event, to working with teen girls has eternal ramifications and slowly ushers in ‘good news’.  The Hope of Advent is fully realized in Jesus — this unlikely representation of the fullness of God, come at the fullness of time. Advent helps me filter the merriment of Christmas-time for the depth of God’s inception here on earth and the calling we have presently — to wait, to rest, to work, and to hope for God’s Kingdom fully come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

 

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here.