Tag Archives: refugees

Why Advent Sucks this Year – Why We Need Advent

Advent is normally my favourite season of the church year. I don’t think that is uncommon for pastors.

Christmas and Easter are of course the big celebrations, but Advent and Lent have a certain depth and richness, that allow Christmas and Easter to be what they are. Advent and Lent add the flavour to the meal.

For me, the richness of Advent is found in the images – the way of Lord, valleys filled up, mountains made low, crooked made straight, broods of vipers, winnowing forks and chaff, angels and virgins, and promises and hints of Messiah.

Advent’s beauty is in the blending of hints and promises of Messiah together with real life. With the messiness of people looking for something better. The people in the desert going to John the Baptist, looking for something different than what they knew. The hypocrisy of religious and political leaders, which is a true as death and taxes. A  teen girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and the reality of impossible life choices.

Advent speaks to the real circumstances that people – everyday, average people – deal with all the time.

And Advent weaves the coming of Messiah through it all. Christmas tells us of the extraordinary. Advent brings God close to the ordinary.

But this year, Advent has not felt so hopeful.

This year I feel like I am being dragged into Advent, and the hope and anticipation just isn’t there.

Instead, all the messy, crappy, broken stories of God’s people that we hear in Advent are hitting too close to home.

Terrorism, shootings, bombs, political leaders vowing revenge feels all to close to world of the seeking crowds, the oppressive world of tyrant kings, the violent world of occupied Israel.

Violence being condoned towards women and their bodies simply because they bear the child of a man, sounds too much like the possible stoning that Mary could have endured had Joseph chosen to dismiss her. A pregnant and unmarried woman was basically worthless and damage good… a sentiment that too many entitled white men  still feel about women.

Syrian refugees fleeing the exact part of the world that the holy family was forced to flee because of violent rulers being fearful of young boys growing into terrorists just feels eerie. Somehow this year, we became all the innkeepers who turned the holy family away because they were too different and unsafe.

The callous brutality of Herod and the Romans feels like the unwillingness of American politicians to consider the smallest modicum of gun control. Royal death squads sent to murder infant boys are the price Herod paid for power and money. Daily mass shootings are the price to pay for an unregulated gun industry.

Advent stories are coming at us in the news as often as they are coming from the bible this year.

Advent has always beautifully shown us the interweaving of incarnation and reality. But this year, the stories we read, preach and hear in the church are reality in the world. We have become a people waiting for and in need of a Messiah.

Advent is our reality.

We are living out Advent in real time.

And maybe that is why we need Advent more than ever.

Without Advent, our current troubles would make celebrating Christmas a farce.

Without Advent, our current troubles would be all there is in the world.

Without Advent, our current troubles would eclipse any glimpse God at work among us.

Advent is sucking this year because the world is sucking this year. Somewhere between racist political campaigns in Canada, ISIS, Paris, US Gun Violence, Climate Change realities and all the other stuff our world is suffering from… the illusory veneer of the “Christmas season” was stripped from us.

And maybe that is the point.

Maybe the real the world has to be held out in front of us, maybe we need to see the unvarnished, un-white-washed, naked world to really get it.

Maybe Advent needs to be real so that we can get that the incarnation is real too.

To get that Messiah is coming into this Advent world.

Stir up your power Lord Christ and come.

Are you in the Advent spirit this year? Share in the comments, or on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

When our words are weak – A Lament for Alan, Ghalib and Rehanna Kurdi

Yesterday, I was scrolling through my social media feeds and a vivid photo of a beach passed by. I scrolled back to see a very young boy in shorts and a t-shirt laying in the sand.

It took me a moment to piece together that this wasn’t a child playing on the beach, but instead a wordless and unimaginable tragedy. It was Alan Kurdi.

 I have a son. A little boy that has often been dressed in shorts and t-shirts this summer. Those hands and feet, those legs and arms, that little body is one I see everyday.

It was heartbreaking to see the same arms, legs and body as my little boy lying lifeless on a turkish beach. It was guilt inducing and gut wrenching to be grateful that there was dark hair and not my son’s reddish blonde.

I have regularly prayed for Syrian refugees in my church. I have just slipped in a few words for them along with prayers for rain in spring and sunshine in harvest, prayers for world leaders and peace, prayers for church ministries and programs, prayers for sick and dying people. It was the very least I could do.

I have regularly forgotten to pray for Syria when all those other things took all my attention.

I have have encouraged my congregation to collect sweaters for displaced Syrian refugees, to give money to our denominational aid organization working in the refugee camps, to be open minded about our muslim neighbours.

I haven’t pressed them as hard as I could have.

A few months ago as I sat in my office, a muslim refugee family came to me to ask for help. A father and mother just like Abdullah and Rehanna, 6 children just like Ghalib and Alan. A family just like Alan’s sat in my office and I hemmed and hawed about how much help I could provide, secretly wondering about how much effort I would need to put in helping them.

As a pastor, I have had grieving mothers cling to me. I have had to offer failing words and inadequate comfort to those who are grieving the death of a child – young and old.

My job is to point to hope, even when no one else can. My vocation is to be the one who declares “Life” when everyone else declares “death.” My calling is to give words to the grieving.

Words for Alan, Rehanna and Ghalib. Words to Abdullah.

Words that somehow make sense of death.

I wish I could say there is some purpose in this tragedy, but there isn’t. I hope that Alan’s  photo becomes as significant as the naked Vietnamse girl’s is, but it would better that neither needed to be taken. I wish that Alan’s death had some greater meaning, but would you volunteer your child’s life to be the one that moved the world to action?

I hope that Alan reminds us that the words ‘Syrian’, ‘Migrant’, ‘Refugee’ are synonymous with ‘person.’ I hope that we remember that Syrians, migrants and refugees are human beings, not numbers, not news headlines, not problems to pass off, or expenses we don’t want to incur.

The world – 5 years too late – cries out for Alan and for Syria.


Yet, world leaders, NGOs, military campaigns, and good intentions will not solve this crisis. At best, they will mitigate it, they will make things slightly less tragic.

That is where my job to speak words for Alan, Ghalib and Rehanna comes in…  to speak words that somehow spark hope in the midst of tragedy and death.

Words that are not mine… words that belong to and are given by God. 

Because when are confronted with images of tragedy that make us cry out,

Because when we know that our leaders don’t have the will to respond, nor could they adequately respond if they did will it,

Because our good intentions have never solved our problems.

Because the human spirit, as noble as it might be, will not save us.

Because when we cannot redeem senseless death, God can. 

God makes sense of that which we cannot. 

God turns our tragedy into something better – into mercy and resurrection.

God does have the answer, God has life and love for a little boy laying on a beach.

God has life and love for our broken world.

Featured photo courtesy of Leadnow.ca