This past Saturday, we had the awesome opportunity to spend time sharing a coat lunch with some of Seattle's homeless community. This was a chance to make new friends in our city, to hear these folks stories, and to experience Jesus' love and grace in and through the lives of folks in need. The time was filled with laughter, dignifying moments of people shedding old dirty jackets for cleaner/warmer ones, and for our common humanity to share a meal to help bridge the too common gap between the "haves" and "have nots".
This Sunday, the historical church calendar begins the season of Advent. Advent is a tool that can be helpful in reminding us of our longing for Jesus to come and make things right (Revelation 21:4). I didn't grow up around the church calendar myself. Yet today, I am finding hope that a closer look at the heart of advent (beyond historic religious practice and candy countdown boxes) will increase our hope in what The Holy Spirit is doing in our lives, our city, and our church community. I would love to take a second and give a little more background on this concept that may be very familiar to some and completely foreign to others.
A scripture for the first weekend of advent is Psalm 130:5-6:
I WAIT for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I HOPE
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who WATCH for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
WAIT. HOPE. WATCH.
The Advent/Christmas season is not just about the Israelites longing for a savior, or remembering that Jesus was born. It is also about hoping and watching for the risen Christ to return. As we walk with Jesus and do life together in our church community, our souls are longing, waiting, and hoping cause we feel and see the despair in our own hearts and the world. Like the psalmist, we are waiting, watching, and trusting in our hope that our loving God has not abandoned Seattle or our world and that He is coming back to make things right. In the meantime,
Advent is simply another invitation to Be Loved and Live Loved by God.
A chance to stop again to receive the gift of Jesus' coming, To dig into our hope that Jesus is coming again, and To love God and others in the space between.
And that is the same heart of longing we experienced this past Saturday. With 400 coats in tow we were able to enter into the cold darkness of winter and to receive the warmth of Jesus' love and grace from our homeless friends, while returning it to them as well. Jesus tells us that whatever you do for the "least of these", you have done unto him. Did you feel that? Did you experience it? Did you interact in that heaven meets earth place where Jesus' love broke through and met with you and your new friend as you shared eye contact, a handshake, or maybe even a deeply caring hug. Did you learn of his grace for you when the man turned in his pee-stained jacket and said, "I feel free from this old thing and don't need this anymore, give this jacket to someone else who may need it". That was a moment where Jesus reminded us off how he throws off our old dirty rags, and clothes us with his righteousness. That He is there to offer His healing for our hearts and our world, and to invite us to help others to experience it too.
In a way, these racks of advent coats reminded us of the hope we have for a Jesus who is returning, who lovingly looks us in the eye, and embraces us in the warmth of his arms as we wait. A Jesus who is for and with our city and cares about every pain, hurt, brokenness, and longing of everyone in it.
As we dive into this advent series in the next 4 weeks of our Be Loved, Live Loved series and march towards our birthday celebration, we hope that we can be a community where you can experience Jesus' love and grace. That you will see Jesus' light breaking through as the sun reflected off of the hopeful eyes of our homeless friends as they walked out with new coats on their back and new friends in their hearts. That newness of life we felt in learning from the voiceless and encountering the affirmation that Jesus loves them and us with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength.
That is an advent coat I am longing to wear, until Jesus' kingdom comes again in Seattle as It Is In Heaven.