The build-up to Christmas bombards our senses—the constant blinking
of Christmas lights, the pervasive wafting of pine-scented potpourri,
the drone of “sleigh-bells ringing.” No wonder we lose sight of what
we’re really looking for in Advent, the signs of the one who is to come.
We don’t ordinarily associate fear with Christmas, and yet throughout
the accounts of the Incarnation, everyone is afraid. Zechariah, Mary,
Joseph, the shepherds, even King Herod is terrified upon hearing the
news that a child will be born in Bethlehem. What’s so scary about a
babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?
I’ve been following the buzz surrounding Willow Creek Church’s newest
“highly effective” way of doing church, an initiative called Reveal: Where are you?
After a generation of numerical “success,” Willow Creek Church has
apparently learned that attracting large numbers of people is not the
same as forming faithful disciples of Jesus.
On the day I read through Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s review of books about the wedding industry, I encountered a young woman at the church reception desk who was breathlessly explaining that she had just secured the Cigar Bar at Ditka’s Restaurant, next door to the church, for her wedding rehearsal party.
The church has traditionally considered Advent a penitential season, a
time for changing one’s mind and re-turning to God. It’s a time for
preparing the way of the Lord, the One who will come to consummate all
things in the rule of God.
In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).