Spotting Jesus: Advent 1

As part of my Advent season this year – my first spent in another country (last year this time we were in the U.S. with visa difficulties), I’ve decided to try a new spiritual practice – spotting Jesus.

I have always enjoyed seeing the “Thanksgiving Countdown” so many of you participate in each November, but I’ve never been able to do something like that consistently.  But as many days as I can during this Advent season 2013, I want to journal and post the ways I find Jesus around me each day.

Advent means many things, but at its core it means “arrival, coming or appearance.”  In my years as a pastor I came to appreciate the multi-layered complexity of Advent.  We can talk about how Jesus came once, and how he will someday come again.  But we can also, in a very real sense, talk about he is arriving every day even now.  He appears around us all the time – if we are willing to look – in ways that are most surprising, enlightening… and sometimes inconvenient.  I want to be mindful of those appearances this Advent season, here in a new place, establishing new routines and traditions.

My hope is not only to observe, but to participate – not only to say, “I saw Jesus,” but to also say I talked with him, served him, loved him in some way.

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Day 1 – Jesus at the Trashcan

Today I saw Jesus across the street, digging through the trashcan.

We live in an apartment in the city center, with a small paved courtyard.  Our dog Lucky weighs about 12 kilos (about 25 pounds), and needs to walk at least twice a day – needless to say, the tiny courtyard doesn’t cut it.  So I see our street at all hours of the day… and have become familiar with the many people that, like me, make their way up and down the street every day.  In particular, I’ve gotten to know some of the local Roma wanderers.  I’ll often see them looking through trashcans for unwanted scraps of food or any items of “value” – realizing, of course, that their idea of “value” might be very different from mine.

This morning, Sunday, I noticed them digging through a trashbin and pulling out half-eaten scraps of food.  I thought to myself, “we have tons of pizza in our fridge today, leftovers from the birthday party this weekend.  How much trouble would it be for me to get some to give to them?  Surely it will be in better shape than what they find in there.”  I resolved that once I finished the block with Lucky, I would bring some food down for them.

When I came back, they were gone.  I even wandered over a couple of streets, but could not find them.  After the fact I realized that I had not really acted with any urgency… maybe you do this too.  I have the intention to do something, but allow myself an “out” by letting the opportunity slip away.

Jesus told us clearly where to look for him, if we want to find him.  And one of those places was among those who are hungry (Matthew 25:31 ff).  I saw Jesus today, and I let him walk away without giving him something to eat.

Did you see him?  Did you let him walk away?

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