Advent has a very special place in the Bauman household. We light the candles, we sing the songs, we pray the prayers each week. The little weekly ceremonies have often helped us with that often needed “holy perspective”, giving us an map to follow as we journey to Christmas. This Advent season has been particularly hard for us. We find ourselves “mourning” on a number of fronts. Stephan recently wrote of the real context of the original advent:
Bethlehem… Oppression ruled the day. Christmas wasn’t happy yet; it was chaos.
Into this suffering and injustice, into the oppression, the palpable fear, and among the cries of unlikely people,
God pitches his tent. (http://stephanbauman.com/)
Our good friend and coworker Justin sent this to Stephan and I yesterday. This was meant to be the kind of private, conversational musing you have over a coffee, hoping for a friend to understand the wrestle going on in your soul– hoping if your friend can understand what you are trying to say, then you can’t be totally off base. Stephan and I connected with his sentiments, and he bravely agreed to see if his thoughts connected with any of yours as well. I am deeply grateful to have friends with me on the Advent journey into mourning.
We pray that the mourning will become the miracle, just as it did on Christmas day…
Justin is a gifted writer and teacher, and he loves the mission of God in this world, and advocates for justice. From Justin:
I’m sipping coffee and listening to a countrified version of “Run, Run Rudolph” as I read an IRIN article entitled, “DRC: Growing humanitarian needs in Goma.” Can anyone say con-tra-diction?
How long must this go on? My friends, my brothers, my sisters flee for their lives, hope for a ration of food and a place to sleep for a few hours each night where they will not be threatened by a rebel militia group whose fuel is fear and intimidation.
Finding food, shelter, and a place to sleep are literally the last questions that arise in my mind. When I finish working today, I will go home, kiss my wife, play with my two young sons, and eat a hearty dinner, before praying together as a family and having a Bible study. Then, off to bed.
In Goma, a man my age, if he has not already been forcibly recruited into M23, will perhaps wonder if he will ever see his wife and/or children again. He will hope for a small ration of food and, if fortunate, he will have a place to sleep tonight. His prayers to God will include fully-embodied trust in God for the next day. He realizes that his life is fragile and that God alone has control. He lives in the tension between life and death—neither truly living nor truly dying—on a regular basis.
I live in this same place, but I do not realize it as he does. “Run, Run Rudolph” and Caribou’s dark roast clouds my mind and my spirit. Nobody has threatened me or my family for a long while, and then, certainly not unto death.
Who lives the greater reality? Who has come to his senses more? Who understands raw trust in God? The one with “options” and “freedom” or the one who has no choice but to lean into his heavenly Father?
I have so many options—where to go to school and what for, whom to marry (already decided), how many kids to have, what kind of career to have, what kind of food I’d like to eat, what to read (forget that I already know how to read), where and how long to sleep, which family members to visit this holiday, what presents to buy and for whom, what car to buy, buying vs. renting a home, what kind of health insurance to purchase… this list, in this country, does not end.
In DR Congo, he trusts in God his Father, or, he despairs to his own demise.
War does not focus our priorities. War destroys, debilitates, orphans, widows, burns, diminishes, breeds hatred, and produces more war. No; our priorities are truly focused when we see what is against what could be—the current state of our world versus God’s design for this earth. Our priorities are truly focused when we are able to see clearly—that we coffee-sippers and “Run, Run Rudolph” listeners are just as fragile and weak as our brother, as our sister, in DR Congo, whose eyes and lives have been illuminated to the true state of affairs both in the heavenlies and on earth.
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. This was declared prophetically in anticipation of His advent. It seems that, this season, our focus should be on peace, shalom, rather than on the Americanized ideal of “Christmas.” Real Christmas is about “Peace on earth.”
Lord Christ, awaken me
to my fragility.
In you I trust.
In you I must
Do not let the cloud of commercialization
that plagues our nation,
descend upon my mind—
deliver me from this evil—
that does not let me see
what Christmas—and life—is meant be.
Justin Kaufman serves at World Relief as the Executive Assistant to the President/CEO, Stephan Bauman. He is a husband to Heidi, father to Grayson and Hudson, and leader who desires justice and peace to reign “on earth as it is in heaven,” fully expressed through the Body of Christ to all nations. He likes to write, read, and sleep when he is not working, playing with his kids, or taking his wife on a date.