"Miss Alison, come outside and see this NOW!"
I was up to my elbows in wires, trying to connect the iPad to the television by way of an HDMI cable wrapped around the Wii cables (you know the pose) for the evening's youth group meeting and wasn't really at a stopping point.
Besides, I knew from experience that middle schoolers can sometimes lack perspective. "You have to see this NOW" could be anything from a squirrel with a really bushy tail to a zombie invasion. I always react in moderation to these urgent outbursts.
Jane was insistent though. She grabbed my arm and dragged me out the door and into the parking lot, pointing to the sky. At this point, I thought, "Oh. It finally IS a zombie invasion." Floating in the sky were dozens of lights, like something that would be seen on "The X-Files" or the UFO YouYube channel. I was suddenly alarmed, realizing that the classes we take on keeping minors safe in church never covered an invasion of unidentified flying objects. Should I call 911? Lead them in a prayer for the end of the world?
Fortunately, Jane and her friends were more knowledgeable about the origins of UFOs than I was. Seeing my panic, the seventh-grader reassured me, "Oh, don't worry Miss Alison. They're candles in trash bags. They get released on the beach for a memorial service. It's only dangerous if it hits a tree. Then it causes a fire."
Well, that's a relief. Although I don't think we'll be releasing bags with lit candles anytime soon.
Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas when we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ as an infant and anticipate his eventual return. In addition to preparing our hearts to recognize Christ, this time affords excellent opportunities to invite others to do the same.
This suggestion can make us start to shift uncomfortably and avoid eye contact. "You mean like tell people about God? That sounds awkward."
This is where Jane dragging me to the parking gives a good example. To review the scenario, Jane saw something pretty incredible. She immediately thought of who else needed to see it. Then, she brought me there -- rather insistently.
While forcibly grabbing people and dragging them to church is not recommended, the knowledge that God became man and loved you enough to die for you is good news that should be shared with the same urgency. But how do we do that without being, well, weird? As the letter of Paul to the Philippians exhorts us, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near" (Philippians 4:4-5).
Our kindness should be known to all. In a season that can be marked by overscheduling, greed and frenzy, kindness is one of the best ways to affect the lives of others. This is especially the case when it comes to those friends, co-workers or relatives you've been trying to bring to church with you for the past several years.
In the next two weeks, instead of a "to-do" list of chores and tasks, think of who in your life needs to be invited (or dragged) to encounter the good news of Christ and offer them not just an invitation, but a companion in the journey. Handing someone a schedule to your church's Christmas services is nice, but offering a ride, a meal and fellowship is better. The rewards are twofold -- you'll be more aware of the gift of faith in your life, and it could begin the transformation in the lives of those you love.