The Arrival

We Know How This Story Will End! (An Advent Meditation)

Arrival Web Banner With Logo This is an Advent reflection written by Krissy Kludt, a writer, storyteller, mom, wife, and artist at Open Door.

Before our son Everett was born, I was a seventh grade English teacher. Every year, my students wrote narratives. They wrote about super hero ninjas fighting evil nachos, time-travel to the Jurassic age, and, in the Twilight years, lots of teenaged damsels falling in love with vampires. The one common thread was that each story was to follow a traditional narrative arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. My students had learned these terms in sixth grade, and probably in elementary school as well, but the terminology was difficult for them to retain. The one term I could always count on them to remember was “climax.”

“It’s the most exciting part!” they would shout, usually just as I was writing the word on the white board above the arc I’d drawn for the lesson.

“That’s part of the definition,” I would say. “But there are often many exciting moments in a narrative. How do you know which one is the climax?”

This question usually stumped them. We read a few stories and found the climax in each. We talked about how the climax was not in the middle of the story, it was closer to the end. And, with the help of the textbook, we found this secret: the climax is the point at which the eventual outcome of the story becomes clear.

The home team scores a tie-breaking goal. The wizard appears on the crest of the hill at dawn, flanked with reinforcements. The heroine halts at airport security and makes her way back through the crowd. These are the moments of climax. There is still a game to finish, a battle to be fought, a relationship to mend, but this is the point at which we know how the story will end.

We live our lives in the falling action. The climax is over: Jesus, our Savior, has come! He was born a tiny baby in a stable, he lived a life of love and grace and challenge and peacemaking and turned the world upside down, and then he died. But here is the key: he rose! He was lifted up, tortured, forsaken, and killed, but that was not the end; it was only the beginning of the climax, because three days later he appeared in a garden, alive and breathing, walking among the trees. Death saw the writing on the wall and knew how all of this would end. So do we.

We live in the falling action. We know how our story will resolve – peace and love and grace and the whole world made new – but we are not there yet. We are in the in-between, the ushering in of the already-not-yet-kingdom. The way we live in this in-between time matters a great deal, but it will not change the final outcome of the story, because the events that determined that outcome have already unfolded. Now, in peace and love and grace and kindness, we are to live our way into the resolution. The goal has been scored, the wizard has come, the heroine has turned; God came in the flesh, conquered death, and is both here now and coming back again. This is the knowledge that allows us to live in hope and anticipation, in Advent.

Last night I drove in the dark to Bekah’s house for a night of creativity with our Circle. I had just gotten word of a tragedy in the life of a friend-of-a-friend, and my heart ached with the knowledge that all is not right with the world. Then, as I turned onto Bekah’s street, I saw three deer grazing in front of a house. The house was dark, unlike many others already lit by Christmas lights. The deer stopped, and I stopped, and we looked at each other. Clouds rolled over the moon. The deer flicked their ears and time slowed down. We acknowledged each other in our waiting.

This is Advent: the time in the dark before the glittery lights and the Christmas songs. The stopping, the waiting, the acknowledgement that all is not as it is supposed to be. The glimmer of moonlight cutting through the clouds in reassurance: we know how this story will end.

I am hopeful for us this Advent. Christmas is coming; it is here and not-yet-here. Jesus has come and gone (but not gone) and is coming again. We live in a world marked by despair, mourning, chaos and apathy, but we know that hope and joy and peace and love are coming and that they are here, now. Let’s watch for them, cling to them, and usher them in. Let’s be glimmers of moonlight in the dark.

Let us wait in hope.

To Hear and See Joy (Lectio Divina and Psalm 126)

On Sunday, we spent time thinking and talking about joy. Jer talked last week about hope as the certainty we find in God's character, and on Sunday I suggested that joy was a response to God's actions and the activity of God's people congruent with God's character. So hope is certainty that God will act and joy is the response when God does act. Jesus frequently said "those who have ears, let them hear," which, at least in part, means that everyone is capable of hearing but not everyone choose to. Part of our formation is to become people who can see and hear God's activities around us.

One way to do this is through the ancient practice of lectio divina ("divine reading"). Lectio is a practice of listening for God to speak as we meditate on Scripture. Lectio is an invitation to trust that:

  • God speaks.
  • God speaks through Scripture.
  • God speaks to you.
  • God speaks through you.

This week, we practiced lectio divina together and I'd invite you to carry that practice with you throughout the week. Here are some guidelines using Psalm 126 as a starting point.

  1. Find some comfortable space for silence. Read Psalm 126 slowly, listening for a word or phrase that rises to the surface for you. What images or ideas come to mind as you dwell on that word or phrase?
  2. Read Psalm 126 a second time. Focus on the same word or phrase, and spend time reflecting on how that word or phrase speaks to the current reality of life. Think about your week in the context of that word or phrase. What's happened or what's on the schedule that resonates with that word or phrase?
  3. Read Psalm 126 a final time. As you continue to meditate on the word or phrase God has lifted to the surface for you, consider what God might be asking you to do, see, hear, or become in response. What is an invitation, loving reminder or promise God has for you in this?

Let this practice cultivate in us an awareness of God's presence and work in our midst so that we might be people of joy!

Elizabeth's New Album and the Journey of The Arrival

These last two Sundays marked the beginning of our Advent journey called The Arrival. This series was crafted around the new musical work by Elizabeth, our Pastor of Worship, and the traditional themes that mark the Advent journey. Her album is available for purchase here and details about her Bay Area Christmas Concert on December 12 are here. Elizabeth writes this about her album:

ehunnicuttsmAs I planned for this record I had a desire to not only sing Christmas songs, but also songs for the season of Advent – a season of longing and waiting. Though Christ has already come, we remain in a world that is not yet perfect. We long for things to be made right, and for the day when Christ will come again. “The Arrival” is a mix of both songs that cry out for things to be restored, and songs that celebrate that God is now with us. Half of the songs on the album originals and the other half are remakes of some of my personal Christmas favorites, including “O Holy Night.”

As Elizabeth notes, there exists a tension between what's already happened (Jesus' birth) and what is yet to come (the world being made right). This is the mystery and beauty of Advent, an integral part of our dream to see heaven and earth woven together again.

Each week throughout our teaching series, we've paired a theme or characteristic of Advent with Scripture using a guiding song from Elizabeth's album. In this way, Elizabeth's album is more than the soundtrack or accompaniment to our Advent journey; the journey has actually been shaped by the music that's been stirring throughout her creative process.

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We'll be singing and learning from these songs together as we move towards Christmas and we'd love for you to journey through this season using Elizabeth's album as a key resource. It will shape our collective journey as well as your personal journey towards Christmas and the reality of the world God is creating through Jesus.

The Arrival of The Arrival

This Sunday marks the arrival of The Arrival! The Arrival is our Advent teaching series crafted to coincide with the release of Elizabeth's Advent/Christmas album of the same name.

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In this Advent journey, we'll consider what it is that we're waiting for as we approach Christmas. What is it that Jesus brought to this world and what is our role in God's unfolding arrival?

November 09 - Tenses of Advent (+ Post-Gathering Dinner at Extreme Pizza) November 16 - Presence in Distance (Isaiah 64:1-9) November 23 - Hope in Despair (Isaiah 40:1-11) November 30 - Joy in Mourning (Isaiah 61:1-11, Psalm 126) (+ Post-Gathering Open Door Square One Orientation) December 07 - Peace in Chaos (2 Samuel 7:1-16) December 12  - Elizabeth Hunnicutt Christmas Concert (Friday night, ticketed event) December 14 - Love in Apathy (Psalm 89, Luke 1:46-55) (featuring Open Door Kids!) December 21 - East Bay Service Projects + Dinner Together (Details forthcoming) December 24 - Christmas Eve Morning Service (Wednesday at 11AM)

Copies of Elizabeth's album and tickets to her December 12 Christmas concert will be sold throughout the Advent season at Open Door.