From Dark to Light – Advent Begins

Literally defined, the word advent is a noun which announces the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. The Christian tradition accurately applies this word as the introduction of the Creator to his creation. Our maker, our king, the explanation of our affection, our God has arrived. A critical precursor to understanding the weight of Advent is understanding ourselves and our place in the story.

The moral, ethical and spiritual struggles so many experience today are not products of social evolution, nor are they problems which cultures 2000 years our senior would find unfamiliar. The details have changed, but the root of our problem remains the same, altruism does not come naturally and the narcissistic beast which leeches itself on each of us from birth is not easily detached. Tantamount to our DNA, the common thread we share with all of our ancestors is the instinctual drive to serve ourselves, suppressing the needs of all others in order to feed our internal monster. All too late, the curtain is drawn and the true nature of the dreams we selfishly chase is exposed – to be the object of your own affection is to be alone.

History documents an endless cycle of nobility leading to egocentricity and civilized captains mutating into maniacal oppressors. All of these inflations being subsequent to the inevitable collision with ourselves which travels down every human connection in an explosive outbreak of anguish and leaves us empty. God arriving in the human form of Jesus was not the equivalent of our parent walking into our bedroom to throw down a lecture, this was your closest friend stepping into every crevice of your life and saying “I know you’ve tried and I know your mistakes. What’s past is gone, let’s do this together.” Jesus’s life was not a regulatory, administrative mission. It was the ultimate expression of love to us which set the ultimate example for us. His life was, and still is, the flame that illuminates our darkness.

No single image could ever be expected to carry the motivation for celebrating Advent much less the gravity of this man, arriving in the skin of this baby, in this place and at this time. Each week in during this season will produce a unique work of art, individually inspired to relate a specific characteristic of Advent. Beginning this season is our transition from darkness into the illumination of the light which is rising.

Focus intensely on the positive image of the painting, allowing the shapes and colors to burn themselves onto your retina.

From Dark to Light

The barren landscape feels very isolated, very cold, but also light. Loneliness tugs on your soul like the weight of an iron anchor plunging into the depths of the ocean. In simultaneous irony, the snow-covered hills reflect the lightness of the gently dancing clouds draw you closer into this world’s embrace. Peering over the frigid landscape, you almost feel a stiff winter breeze slide its icy fingers beyond the protection of your layered garments and violate every cutaneous detail you’ve worked so hard to conceal. The setting sphere appears sun-like, but its dismal blackness kidnaps all your strength in a violent back draft. What we perceived as our light has suddenly become our darkness.

After 45 seconds or more, look away from the cold landscape and toward a solid, flat surface. The inverted image will be revealed.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains, from where shall my help come from? Psalm 121:1

Dark to Light - inverted

Your eyes reveal an explosion of colors which jolts you into a new awareness. The dark is now light, the cold grows warm, your loneliness chased away by a new presence. The void that raped your soul of its stamina erupts with a brilliance that sheathes you like a lover’s sudden embrace. The thirst of your soul is immediately quenched by a reassurance of security so personal that it reanimates the very confidence your previous affections endeavored so intensely to extinguish. You now feel yourself standing a little taller. Air rushes through your lungs in a dance of freedom as your head raises skyward. The sun is rising, a new day beginning.

The son is rising.

This is the start of Advent.

First Wednesday November 6

We’ve started a new service at North Ridge we call First Wednesday. The first Wednesday of every month will be a night of community and worship, with a few surprises mixed in. Tonight was the first, First Wednesday I’ve made. Leading into our newest series, Game Time, we talked about our call to build a city within our city last Sunday. That message included staggering statistics of hunger, poverty, and broken lives inside our county. We devoted tonight’s gathering to praying for all of these statistics, as people rather than  numbers, and asking God to open doors for us to meet our community’s needs as a church. Two of my boys and I joined tonight’s group, art supplies handy. Being a special service, I broke out some different supplies, newsprint and oil pastels. Here’s what tonight looked and felt like; tranquil, peaceful, refreshing.

First Weds 11-6The evening began with worship through acoustic music. We then wove our way through the ACTS of prayer focusing on God and centering  ourselves. Using the acronym ACTS, our night of prayer began with Adoration, praising God for who He is. We spent time corporately in awe of God. We then moved into a time of confession. After acknowledging God in his majesty, the next logical step is seeing our depravity in comparison and confessing our faults and the faults of our community. Publically, we recognized our tendency to segregate ourselves, our willful ignorance to others’ needs, and generally selfish attitudes. Privately, we confessed our personal failures. The third movement of the night was Thanksgiving, praising God for loving us and providing for us despite our inadequacies. We celebrated God, remembering His sacrifice by gratefully sharing in communion. The finale for our night of prayer was a time for focused Supplication, offering our humble requests to God. Voluntarily breaking into smaller groups, we focused on praying for the hungry, lonely, orphaned, and unemployed in Randolph county; the broken homes and the damaged lives. Closing with a song, we left inspired, empowered and refreshed.

My boys made me proud. Noah (7) drew worshiped through art beside me, Jacob (4) quietly observed (and snagged a little nap), and were both exceptionally behaved.

DSCN2869

 

May God bless our community through North Ridge Church as we step up to the plate, it’s game time.

Game on.