When I was growing up in church and learning about missions in Girls in Action, my favorite time of year was Christmas (it still is!)—but my second favorite was “Christmas in July,” when our G.A. leaders would set up a Charlie-Brownish little Christmas tree, decorated in red and green baubles, in our church-basement classroom. In the heat of summer, with the a/c cranked up, we would sing Christmas songs, and eat Christmas snacks, and tell the Christmas story, and we’d wrap up donations of toothbrushes and mini shampoo bottles in festive paper. Everybody gives a lot during Christmastime, we learned; but in the middle of summer, when that generous holiday is furthest away, there were still needs we could help to meet. The Christmas story and the Christmas songs and our Christmas spirit did not have to be confined to December!

This July, maybe we too “need a little Christmas,” as the old song says. We “need a little Advent,” a little hope, peace, joy, and love. We need to sing the Spirit’s songs. We need to look for the needs we can meet even today. And we need to tell the stories of the One who was born to give us new life.

Proper 13, Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

“This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)

This is a love story.

This is a story about a family torn in half, two brothers arguing over an inheritance, debating the laws of possession. There is no love here; only greed.

This is a story of arbitration, of mediation, of a rabbi put on the spot and asked to be impartial, to interpret and judge objectively. Detachment is imperative. The brothers aren’t looking for love, only neutrality.

But this Judge, this Jesus (who cannot not love, cannot not speak of love), answers their dispute with yet another story. An old story, though he made it up on the spot. A true story, though it was a fiction. A love story, in its way; the story of a man with so much to love that he needed to build warehouses to contain all the things that were dearest to his heart.

All the things he needed to protect.

All his things.

Because who knows when thieves may come in the night? Who knows what natural disaster lurks in tomorrow’s weather forecast? Who knows what turns the market may take? When you love something, you take care of it. You keep it safe, untouched; you do whatever it takes to protect it, because its very existence is your legacy, and its security is your life’s work. You label it in boxes, stack it high away from the damp, take out insurance policies and hinge your future on its well-being. This is love for a lifetime—this is love that will take your whole life.

We give our lives to the things we love.

So. . .what do we love?

Inheritances alone—in cash, in land or gold or jewels—are enough to shred the fabric of families, tearing sibling from sibling, parent from child. Possessions alone—stored up in pristine boxes along with all our hopes for an uncertain future—may occupy our thoughts and our time, but cannot save us from unhappy endings. However hard we try to gain them, however hard we work to keep them, our inheritances and possessions will not join us in eternity. They are not life. They are not love.

But there is, after all, an Advent love; there is, after all, an Advent love story.

Dear Sister, Brother: share in the inheritance of love, proclaiming “Be not afraid.” Dear Parent, Child: receive the legacy of love, of peace for the future and goodwill for all. Dear Mother, give your heart not to worrying, but to pondering. Dear Father, do not lock up your storehouses, but open yourself to the wonders of this day.

Dear Family: God has made us rich in heart, shaped us together, and gifted us with eternity swaddled in human form. This is our love story. And this is our story, for life.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.