This morning I came across a helpful reminder: When everything is important, nothing is. As I told the Session at our last meeting, I’m the type of person who can get excited about a lot of different things. “If a train is going by," a friend once told me "you want to get on it.” It’s true. I love trying new things and having new experiences. If I'm not careful, I find myself hopping on every train that rolls by. Living that way can be fun, but it can also be unfocused and unbalanced.
This tendency to join every party or hop on every train isn’t something unique to me: it’s emblematic of a major struggle in our culture as well. Every day we’re bombarded by messages in the media about what we ought to pay attention to, buy, subscribe to, or follow. How do we decide what’s really important? How do we focus?
This Advent I feel a strong sense of calling to a very specific focus: mission and ministry to others. The season of Advent is a season of waiting for Christ to be born in our hearts and into the world. We can spend it focused on ourselves and our own needs, or we can look outside of ourselves, toward the needs of others.
When I talk to folks about mission, one of the most common concerns I hear expressed is the concern that the problems of the world are so overwhelming, it’s hard to know where to start. Sometimes the suffering in the world seems too great for one person, or even one church to impact. I feel that way sometimes, too. When I do, I remember this helpful saying from the Talmud: "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
We are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it. This advent we’re "filling the stable." As we think of Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem, we think of others in our community who have very real needs: for warm socks and hands and heads, for basic necessities like toilet paper and toothpaste, for diapers. We might wonder what these humble offerings can do in the face of so much grief and suffering in the world, but we should take heart. We might not be able to follow all of the tubes of toothpaste we give to their final destination. We will not wash the feet that wear the warm socks. We will not hold the babies who wear the diapers. We will, however, be a part of building a better world for those around us.
When everything is important, nothing is. This advent I’m prioritizing giving to others. Will you join me?
Take a look at our "Fill the Stable" campaign and participate however God leads you.