You may have noticed that “community” is a theme that I regularly incorporate into my preaching and teaching. There is an important reason for this emphasis that is rooted in my experiences of the church going back forty years. I lived in a pretty small world until my family moved to California. My family was small. My parents didn’t engage with very many friends. I went to school in a very small community. Because we lived far outside of town I didn’t do much socializing with school friends. In short, I didn’t really think too much about community. When I moved to Escondido, all that changed. I now lived close to school and I was able to get a job to which I could walk. I enjoyed that tremendously. However, my deepest lessons in community came from my church experience. These experiences became my first education in Christian Community.
The first lessons that I learned in Christian Community were about acceptance. Through these relationships I was able to be accepted even though I different. I was also able to learn to accept, without judgment, people who were very different from me. Together we learned. We grew in grace as individuals and as a community. We discovered the important of service to Christ beyond ourselves. Our faith in God was nourished in this wellspring of grace. Each of us who were part of that group have followed a variety of calls to ministry and service. As I followed my particular call and began to study the Scriptural witness more in-depth I realized something. The work of developing this sort of community is at the very center of who God has called us to be from the very beginning of creation. We are created for community.
God’s Ongoing Work
Through every period of history, from the call of Abraham to today, God has been teaching us the lessons and importance of being together. The Ten Commandments were about establishing Israel as a people. The Prophets spoke of restoring communal bonds (bonds that were more important than political achievement). Through the Nativity of Jesus, God becomes part of our life and relationships in a very tangible way. The life of the early church is set up to mirror the community we have with God and one another in Jesus. Even today, we find the fullest expression of our self in and through the relationships we have with one another and with God. This is an important hope for us today. In a world that is becoming increasingly suspicious and fractured it’s vital that we remember that we belong to one another. We are not meant to live this life alone.
A Christmas Wish
In our remaining days of Advent let us open our hearts and lives to the promise of God’s presence experienced uniquely in our life together. May the peace of Christ be born anew in our hearts this year. By God’s grace may our renewed lives be a beacon of hope for others.