Friday, December 23, 2011

"Held at bay by a vicious animal" option 3?

I had to call Animal Control in Wake County, North Carolina for reasons that are not worth repeating. What is interesting is their current outgoing phone message. It is a long message that gives callers the option of pressing various buttons on their phone for various needs. Before you even get to that part, however, there is a recitation of the holiday schedule. Then, finally, callers are told to "press one" for a long list of services related to the animal shelter, or to "press two" for complaints related to stray animals and other matters related to animal control. But it was option three that really got me. Callers are instructed to "press three" for emergency issues including being "held at bay by a vicious animal."

Shouldn't this third option be number one? If I'm being "held at bay by a vicious animal" I'm thinking I don't want to listen through the listing of the holiday schedule, the animal shelter services, and the stray animal/animal control option before being told how to get help. By the time I'm told the button to push to get assistance, the vicious animal may have done its damage. If a ferocious dog is snapping at my heels or a crazed bear is chasing me, I think I should be at the front of the line for help.

Maybe the outgoing phone message of Wake County, North Carolina Animal Control is a good reminder to all of us to get our priorities in order.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Misunderstood preparations

Last week Kieon Sharp, 18, of Charleston, West Virginia, applied for a job with a trucking company. On the same day that he filled out the application he saw one of the trucks of the company he hoped to work for parked on the street with the driver sitting inside. He decided to make some preparations for his potential new job by talking to the driver about the day-to-day routine of driving for this company.

Sharp approached the truck and knocked on the driver's window. The driver immediately called the police and Sharp was arrested. You see, Sharp had applied to Brinks Security and he was knocking on the window of one of their armored vehicles parked outside of a bank. The driver thought the young man had a gun and that he was attempting a robbery.

Sharp was held behind bars for several hours before the story was sorted out. The police were apparently impressed with his cooperation. Sharp was offered an application to the city's street department upon his release from jail.

Kieon Sharp was only trying to make preparations for something important in his life, but his preparations were misunderstood. The Advent season is all about making preparations for something important in our lives. We seek to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. If our preparations are in keeping with the character of the arrival of Jesus then they could easily be misunderstood.

Great kings are supposed to arrive amid scenes of glory but Jesus, the King of kings, chose to enter the world in a lowly, even scandalous, way. A teen pregnancy out of wedlock to a peasant girl. A birth in a stable. His first clothes were rags and his first bed was a feed trough. Behold, your Savior.

According to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Jesus made himself poor in coming to this world. His ambition was not for power and wealth, but for lowliness and poverty. As Mary said, he brought down the powerful and sent the rich away empty while he lifted up the lowly and filled the hungry with good things (Luke 1:51-53).

This whole approach upsets the ways of our world--our culture in particular. If we all operated this way, Black Friday would be a disaster and our economy would be wrecked. If our Advent preparations follow the original Christmas pattern then I can easily see our efforts causing considerable misunderstanding and concern.

But I hope we realize, to slightly paraphrase John's gospel, "the true light, which enlightens everyone, comes to the world" (1:9). And we need to help our world to see the true light. To do that our Advent prepartions must shine the true light on a new and different way--His way. We will be misunderstood ... at least at first. But if we are faithful to the ways of the one whose ambition was for poverty and lowliness then the wonder of the true light will transform our world in glorious ways.