God with Us comes in suspicious surprises.
Today it is nineteen degrees before the wind chill in Cincinnati, Ohio. That, my friends, is the high temperature. The natives are more comfortable with a high around forty degrees and rightly so as that is the norm here in what I have fondly come to call the Virtual South. Although I remember many Wisconsin winters being much colder, I feel a generosity of spirit toward my neighbors. I cannot chide people who seem to have ceased complaining about arctic air to huddle in their misery in silence.
Weather is an old story, but our response to it can change as we choose.
I just watched a Dateline special I missed a few weeks ago about the upcoming referendum scheduled in the Sudan for January 9, 2011. The people living in Southern Sudan are aiming to secede from the rest of the Northern portion of the country, having sustained themselves, barely, against violent military attacks from its own government. You’ve heard of Darfur, right? And you’re aware of the twenty years of civil war these folks endured before that? Does the term “Lost Boys” ring any bells? If not, take some time to Google any or all of these reference points, trusting me when I say that the people of Southern Sudan have a right to create peace for themselves and their children. What is at stake now, however, is a whole lot of oil and principles, both of which may need to be shared and compromised in order to make that peace possible.
Southern Sudan holds eighty percent of its country’s oil reserves. In Africa’s largest and poorest country this is a massive bargaining chip. John Prindergast, former Clinton Administration aide and Africa expert now heading the Enough Project, is clear that peace is possible. The other chip on the table is United States diplomacy and its power to normalize relations with the present government of Sudan in the North. These are the people who have perpetrated the violence against their own people over many, many years in mind-numbingly horrific ways. Making peace happen sometimes comes at a cost beyond the scope of our personal experience. The alternative is more war, which is incomprehensible.

War is an old story, too, but our response can change as we choose.

Advent always holds that magic of hope and promise. It is a meditative time, a time to remember how God made that promise real for the world. It is a time to prepare again for the ways that God’s Spirit enters and flows through each of us in deeply personal ways. That said, the world and our lives continue on their merry ways whether we pay attention or not. In the end we may not be directly affected by what happens in Sudan, but many people will be. In the end, we may not be conscious of the changes brought to our lives by God’s Spirit moving among us, yet our lives will be touched and shaped.

What we have before us, right now, is the moment to choose our own stories, recognize each of them as contributing to this new thing God is doing right now. If nothing else this holiday season gives us the gift of knowing we are not alone. God became human and decided to live with us, showing us a way to live that was inclusive, easier to follow than we sometimes make it, and loving. The old stories we tell ourselves, about separating ourselves from others, making the faithful choices difficult, and simply being unkind to each other do not serve the greater good or our ease in moving through the express checkout line at the grocery store.

Old stories we have lived can also change, be transformed by God’s grace as we search back and pay attention to where god was when needed God most. What once felt like desertion can be reclaimed as redirection. What was perceived as confusion can be restored as much needed clarity. What our memories hold as fear and vengeance can be made into wholeness and peace when we look with god’s heart and mind at our own lives and at the world as we thought we knew it.

This is faith, believing that God has always been and continues to be actively participating, always ready to give us what we want most. Advent asks us to look at our faith in new ways, see if it fits with our old stories, our old perceptions. This is our moment in time to listen and look, to wonder about all the possibilities that God has available. Everything comes from God, but we are the instruments through which God has chosen to work.

Faith is an old story, too, but how we choose to respond to God’s faith in us as instruments of transformation and purpose is always ours to make.


Author's Bio: 

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay with a double major in Communication and the Arts and Social Change and Development and a minor in Women's Studies, was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church in North America after completing her Master of Divinity degree studies through Moravian Theological Seminary. Over twenty-five years of experience in individual and community ministries gives Rev. Kemp an informed perception about faith, its implications and struggles in everyday life. Rev. Kemp focuses her work on helping people understand their faith and how faith can become transformational in their lives. Challenge your faith - visit http://www.creatingwomenministries.com.