The Unexpected

Christmas is a story of the unexpected.

Think about it. An engaged teenage girl becomes pregnant. Her devout Jewish husband chooses not to divorce her. The Roman government dictates they must travel late in the pregnancy. Her baby is born surrounded by barn animals.

Oh, and that baby was the Christ, the anticipated Messiah of Israel.

The wise men traveled hundreds of miles to follow a star, which led them first to Jerusalem. Somehow they knew they were searching for the King of the Jews, and they brought their search to Jerusalem.

Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled at the purpose of their journey.

Surely word spread to all in Jerusalem, including the chief priests and scribes. They knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Yet the word of the potential Messiah was not enough to cause these “head Jews” to follow the wise men to the child

Why? Because their expectations had them looking elsewhere.

Scripture clearly stated the prophecies concerning the Messiah, yet tradition built on to what Scripture declared. Tradition said the Messiah would come as a political revolutionary, not as a newborn child. Their expectations were not met, and they missed Jesus.

Too often we create our own version of Jesus. Scripture paints a clear picture of Jesus, but we prefer to make additions to this picture. Eventually we get a version of Jesus that is grossly inaccurate, and we miss Jesus.

Advent is a season of waiting; we look back to the first arrival of Jesus, and we anticipate the second coming of Jesus. As we prepare for the return of Christ as the true conquering king, let us look for the Jesus of Scripture. Let the Jesus we seek and worship be the true Jesus of the Bible.

May we not miss Jesus this Christmas.

“’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” –Matthew 12:1-11

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A Glimmer of Hope

This morning’s post is by Stephanie Corrigan, a recent Impact Trip participant. As we continue our theme of watching and waiting this advent, we want to bring this client story to you from Stephanie’s perspective. 

There were 4 of us traveling by foot through the slums of Kisumu, a small Kenyan fishing community. Today we would participate in ‘Home Visits’, an integral part of the CARE for AIDS program. As we walked, I began to wonder what the visits would be like and who we’d meet. Often we meet people who end up having a profound impact on our lives, but don’t realize the significance of that first meeting until the change has taken place. One such encounter was waiting for me a few yards away, inside of the home of a man named Puce.

The house was a square stone structure with no windows and a single rust-colored door. The air inside was damp, the interior sectioned off with tattered sheets flowing down to the dirt floors. Once inside I began to experience feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Before that I’d only experienced the stories of success, and hope that came along with going through the CARE for AIDS program.

A frail man clothed in a worn shirt and dirt-stained slacks emerged and introduced himself as Puce. Puce revealed to us that he was once a prominent business man who traveled as part of his job. In the midst of his busy life, he became sick for a prolonged amount of time. He eventually traveled to Dubai for treatments and it was there that Puce discovered he was HIV positive. He was immediately sent back to Kenya and fired from his job.

It was eerie to see what a successful business man had become, his former life a distant memory. He revealed that he was aware of how desperate his situation is, and that he is often overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness. He didn’t want to remain where he was, and through CARE for AIDS was beginning to see that there was hope for him. As he showed us a box full of items he’d made to sell, he spoke of his desire for a wife but was not pursuing anything because he didn’t feel capable of caring for a wife the way a man should be able to.

I will always remember Puce, a man with a kind heart and warm smile, who was willing to sacrifice his own desires for the good of others. Had CARE for AIDS not been available to him, he would not have the hope for his life that he has today. How many more people like Puce are out there, waiting for a glimmer of hope that tells them that everything is going to be ok? How many of you are on the opposite side of the spectrum, waiting for the right opportunity to act? “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

 

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Lowly and Loved

Post written by CARE for AIDS Operations Coordinator, Cassie Gay

That is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This is true for you and for me. We are the unseemly, the lowly. These feelings resonate with our clients more personally than we can comprehend. They are perceived as lowly human beings in their communities, even in their families. Before going through our program, many believe their broken identities to be true. But they soon learn that God, the coming of Immanuel, offers hope and restoration.

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During the second week of anticipating the arrival of the Messiah during Advent, believers focus on the “mystery” of God and the new hope we find through the Gospel. There is much that is a mystery when we try to comprehend our Savior, the Lord of glory, becoming the poor, seemingly lowly Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps the greatest mystery, the one we most struggle with, is grasping the truth Bonhoeffer describes, the wondrous love God has for His broken people.

Our regional coordinator, Francis Odour, witnesses daily the beautiful way this mysterious love God has for humankind completely changes the lives of HIV positive Kenyans. “It’s amazing to see the transformation that happens in a person,” Francis explains. “It helps me wake up every morning…and the greatest joy I have is being able to present the Gospel to people, knowing that they are no longer hopeless. There is life beyond contracting this disease,” Francis explains. “There is hope.”

Like our clients, we were once lost, excluded, and broken. We were captive to fear, with death looming. But the Messiah, as Bonhoeffer clarifies, marched right in. On this day of Advent, let us rejoice in our hope by responding to the depths of His mysterious love in worship as we anticipate the Last Advent, the final coming of Jesus.

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