I’m sitting here at Bruegger’s Bagels this morning, my favorite place to go when I actually need to get stuff done, and I’m doing a little eavesdropping on the table next to me. (I never really intend to do that, it just happens. Especially when it’s interesting. If people didn’t talk out loud about interesting stuff, I wouldn’t eavesdrop.) I’m not listening intently to every word, just picking up on some key things here and there.
Unfortunately, while the conversation this morning is interesting, what’s happening is also disheartening. There’s a single mom at this table who’s currently the recipient of a sales pitch for a get-rich-quick scheme. Sounds like some kind of pyramid deal. Based on what I’m picking up, she’s a single mom. Based on what I’m hearing, she’s being asked to make an “initial investment” that she may have to scrape together to pay. Based on my assumptions, she’s looking for something more, something better, for her life than what she currently has. I’m afraid, though, that this pyramid scheme won’t give her what she’s looking for. And sadly, I feel helpless in this particular circumstance sitting here watching and listening to this unfold.
I read this morning in the Gospel of Luke about another single mom who wasn’t sure exactly what she should do, a mom who considered herself to be of low status. In Luke 1:46-55, this young mom, Mary, sings a song that gives insight into who God is and what kinds of things and people God cares about. She says, “He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God…He has pulled the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.” This is both good and terrifying news. If you’re the type of person who is searching, feeling empty, ill-equipped for life, unsure about what to do next, hungry, or powerless, it’s good news to know that God is working on your behalf. If you’re the type of person who takes advantage of those who are searching, empty, and powerless, it’s terrifying to know that you’re not really as in charge of things as you think you are, and your reign at the top might be more short-lived than you anticipate.
We’re getting ready to begin the season of Advent, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus and anticipate his future return to the earth. Jesus came to earth with a clear purpose: to call people to follow the way of God and to show them what that looks like, what God looks like in person, how God acts, what God cares about, who God hangs out with. Mary’s song in Luke 1 gives us some insight into those things, and there are many people who need to hear this good news. So many people in this and every community need to know about the GOOD NEWS of Jesus as opposed to the legalistic, morality police version of Jesus often spread around by the Church. There are people all over our communities like this woman who are looking for something more, desperate for their lives to be something or have something more. What they need isn’t judgment or condemnation from other imperfect people, it’s the good news that there IS, in fact, something (or someone) who can fulfill their deepest longings.
May our churches be the kinds of places that share the good news of Jesus, and may I be the kind of person who takes advantage of opportunities to invite people to experience the full kind of life only he can offer.