Joseph’s Bones

And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt… Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”  -Exodus 13:18b-19

In her Advent devotional Lighted Windows, Margaret Silf suggests that the Israelites carried the bones of Joseph because “he was their dreamer, the symbol of their God-dream.” She goes on to encourage us to carry our dreams with us, too, because it gives us the energy we need to continue our journey. Ministry is hard work. Indeed, it is joyful work…but hard, nonetheless. When we get tired, it’s easy to lose our way, to forget why we began this journey in the first place. Our vision becomes cloudy and the Voice that called us seems so distant now.

Advent is a notoriously busy season for anyone in ministry.  For those serving on the staff of their church, there is a church to decorate, extra worship services to plan, Christmas celebrations to attend, and visits to the homebound and the sick. For those in ministry outside the church walls (i.e., all Christians!), there are angel trees to coordinate to provide gifts for the poor, Christmas banquets to feed the hungry, coats and blankets to collect to give some measure of warmth to the homeless. Add to all of that the decorating of our homes, the gifts we purchase and/or make, the extra baking for cookie exchanges… Suddenly we find ourselves tired and confused, wondering why we began this journey in the first place.

That’s when it’s time to take out Joseph’s bones.

Create space for some quiet reflection. Remember the times when God unmistakably touched your life, when he called you to this particular ministry path–whether it is in the church, in the home, in the community, or in the marketplace. Remember when you knew beyond a doubt that God was leading you purposefully. Margaret Silf refers to this place of remembering as “a sacred space and a still center in all our confusion,” and she encourages us to return to it regularly for replenishment.

God’s voice is still there, even in the midst of the busyness of this Advent season. We just need to remember the sound of that Voice in our ears, then wait quietly and listen patiently once again.

advent

What difference does it make?

The Christmas decorating is done, the gifts are purchased, the holiday menus planned and theadvent candles grocery shopping completed. Seven pairs of pajamas are are sewn, ready and waiting for  wiggling little bodies to don them (I carry on my grandmother’s tradition of making pajamas for my grandchildren every Christmas). I haven’t accomplished this much so early in the season in years! Now I can sit back and wait… Or not.

I love the spirit of Advent–this season of waiting, of preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus as we celebrate His first coming and expectantly await His second. But there have been too many years when I have been crazy-busy with all the shopping, decorating, sewing, baking…all the memory-making stuff of family life. Add to that the heightened activity for  church staff at this time of year, and it’s easy to find myself sadly wondering on December 26th just how I missed Christ in all that Christmas!

But not this year. This year I have time to ponder the signficance of Immanuel–God-with-us. I have time to reflect on Christ’s promise to come again, when He will make all things new! And the question that keeps popping into my mind is this, What difference does it make? What difference does it make that I know Jesus was born into our human condition, and that He suffered and died to atone for our sins? (Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, I might add!) What difference does it make that I accept His promise to return, to establish a new world, a new order of life that is eternal? What difference does knowing all this make in my life today?

Many think that eternal life is something you get when you die. New life, a different kind of life, starts at conversion and never ends. -Bishop Todd Hunter

It’s easy to live for today, perpetually seeking self-gratification, when I think that the only life that counts is the one that begins after my bodily death. But I believe that my eternal life began the day I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and that changes everything. It means that how I live today has significance for the rest of my eternal life. My life today is supposed to be different from the life I lived before my conversion, and the choices I make today impact all my tomorrows…an eternity of tomorrows!

Jesus came to save the lost. He came to save me, and would have done so if I was the only person alive. But I’m not. There’s a whole world that Jesus wants to reconcile to the Father, and He bids me to help, to do what I can in my little corner. He didn’t save me just so that I could sit around and wait for Him to come back. He saved me so that I can make a difference.

Now that I think about it, the real question is What difference do I make?

That’s a question worth asking every day!