The kid’s got no idea that the world’s been kinda blowing up lately.
He just rolls out of bed when his dad crows like a strangling rooster from the top of the stairs every morning, grabs his jeans, shimmies a shirt over his head and stumbles to the barn to feed his sows.
Half the time the kid comes in from the barn smelling like a pig. Because that’s the half of the time he lets the barn shower run for a whole 3 seconds and he never even reaches for the shampoo.
That would also be the same half of the time that I send him back to that barn shower and make no bones that the water has to run for 5 minutes and the kid better figure out that life is about knowing when to lather up — and when it ain’t worth your time to get all lathered up about.
The kid pays no mind to any stirred up stink. But you better believe he makes sure he knows about things like when they’re calling for snow in these parts and how to sharpen the rusted blade of a saw to take back to the woods to hack down some sad looking cedars and what pocket he’s got that Red Swiss Army contraption of his that would bust you out of any Houdini nightmare and the kid comes to me the other night because he says he’s sure of this:
“You know what I’ve been praying about, Mom?”
The kid’s standing in the evening living room, his face lit by the brave glow of the Christmas tree.
“I’ve been praying about it for awhile now,” he stuffs his hands in his pockets, his head down. “That I’d be one of the ones that lay my life down. And thinking there are a lot of ways to lay your life down.”
He looks up at me.“Fear’s an ugly thing and why wouldn’t you lay down your life rather than be poisoned by fear to hold on to your life?”
Whadya say to the kid standing there in the light of a Christmas tree? I wanna grab him, pull him in close…
Wanna bury my face in his mop of hair and what do you say to fears that loom over Christmas, what to you say to the latest breaking news that shouts louder than the news of Advent breaking in, what do you say to the rising anger in the streets instead of a rising chorus of Christmas carols out on the street corners? Joy to the World…. Let heaven and nature sing….
I’m standing there looking into the eyes of a 13-year-old kid looking right into me.
The kid’s telling me that he’s been praying for a way to lay down his life.
What happens when you pray to lay down your life with a welcome larger than weapons, with an incarnational hope larger than any imagined hells, with a brave faith larger than any beastly fears?
Does the kid have any idea?
Does the kid know that the hawkers out on the street corners keep lathering folks up because they know it: Fear Sells.
And The Maker of the universe knows it since He breathed it into the atmosphere: Faith Saves.
Fear is what’s at the base of all our debates.
Fear Of Missing Out is what drives all our consumerism.
Fear of losing is what’s actually making us lose the most.Unless we let Love drive out fear, our fears will drive out Love.
But the kid knows it, because that’s we’re doing here through Advent — Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and purposing not to be undone by any news cycle or fear mongers:
Fear Sells —- but there is a Story that Saves.
Fear may sell policies or garner votes or hawk hardware — but there is a Story that Saves.
When the kid cuts out ornaments that tells The Story from the beginning ….
That tells the Story of the Coming across the waters, the deep calling to deep, the Coming of glory through the drought of the wilderness wanderings, the Coming of relief up through all our failings and fallings and skinned kneed impossibles — the kid’s coming into a Braver and Truer Story than anything that’s being sold at half price at Walmart or being hashed out by all the pundits on the 6 o’clock news.
The kid knows that he gets the Real Story mixed up whenever he mixes himself up with fear and dehumanizing and demonizing any human being because all human beings are made in the image of God. Because dehumanization may be a message of war, but it’s never the message of the Gospel.
The kid’s keeping his story straight because He’s staying in the gospel truth Story — no matter how loud any of the noise gets he’s staying in the story that says Jesus has been coming since the beginning for everyone, the story that says Jesus is chasing down every person on the planet with His love —
and He invites us into the Real Story if we’re willing to let Perfect Love kick a Poisoning Fear to the curb.
The kid’s cutting out ornaments to tell the Story —
to tell the Story that has but one line repeating agin and again, more than any other line, a line like it’s own refrain in the midst of a world where all our natures refuse to sing: “Do not be afraid.”It doesn’t matter what fear the world’s selling. The only Story that matters keeps repeating it: Do Not Be Afraid.
Do not be afraid of the unknown when you know the One who does the impossible,
Do not be afraid of what could fail when His arms are stronger than any failure & He cannot fail or let you fall
And do not be afraid of any evil because greater is He who is in the depths of you and breathing the wild courage to love right into your bones.
Do not be afraid to see the face of God in the dark where you did not expect Him.
Do not ever be afraid of suffering because suffering can birth a greater resurrection. Do not be afraid of laying your life down in a thousand ways because this is the only way to ever rise.
Do not be afraid to pack nothing and only pick up your Cross.
The boy looks over at me and, for a moment, just the way he turns, the way he says it, he doesn’t sound like a kid:
“You know, Mom —- I don’t think that there was any playing when He said: ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
I nod slow, fighting back this blurring and brimming.
I want to tell the kid that — but I think this is what he already knows because it’s the gospel truth of The Story we’re staying in this Advent:When you hold bravery in one hand and vulnerability in the other, you hold wholeness. . The wholeness of true humanity.
The fear-peddlers will claim only fools would walk with such a posture in an evil-pocked off-kilter world. The fear-strident rally that you have to carry this cheap veneer strength that morphs into meanness and smallness and harshness.
But the Truth never changes:
You never defeat any monster by becoming a monster.
The Truth and Real Strength came into a violent world as the most vulnerable — as a scandalously gentle baby. Jesus came as a vulnerable baby into a scuffling, warring world — so no one was intimidated, so all could come close, so no one was discounted, so all could hold him & feel the way His backbone curved.Backbone that has real strength like God’s —- bends to lay down your life for those who don’t love you at all.
The essence of true humanity is to let the backbone curve low and hold vulnerability in one hand and bravery in the other. Because this is essentially all the same thing.
The kid’s take the ornament of a great light rising in the darkness, takes it in hand and hangs it on the tree, knowing that the uncontainable God who cracked an amniotic sac and swam a birth canal to get to us would one day hang naked vulnerable from a tree, the epitome of brave — the way the bravery of vulnerability always shatters the dark.
Advent is about the coming of God and the end of fear.
And the boy becomes more than a man with one line to his old mama:
“Nothing, Mom —- Nothing’s going to stop me from praying for ways to lose and lay my life down.”
And in flash of light, it’s like all the preoccupation with fear blows apart and there’s this shimmer of holy things coruscating around us like the wings of a brazen glory.
The way hearts open brave.
Give the Story and the free Ornaments, give the gift of no fear to another family, give the Gospel. Give & Unwrap the Gift that breaks the fears. Because: The only Story that matters keeps repeating it: Do Not Be Afraid.
[Readers: click here for the 24 Free Story-Telling Ornaments — please sit in the peace of a holy Advent wait, waiting for the download of this color-rich printable]