Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jill Penrod | Spread the Christmas Joy

I belong to a very small church, and we don’t own a building. For years we’ve met on Sunday afternoons in another church. Recently we started to look for a place of our own, and God sent us something none of us expected. He looked at the list of what we wanted in a new worship space and tossed the list out the window. Instead, He sent us to an urban ministry that feeds the homeless, and he said, There. You worship there, in the center of what I’m doing. You worship with the broken, the lost, the poor, the marginalized. That’s your new home. Go there.

This isn’t a Christmas memory yet. It’s a Christmas future. We begin our journey downtown to worship on December 24th, Christmas Eve. Although we’re excited about the move, we have no idea what to expect. To be honest, we are not naturally equipped for this. We are a white, middle-class church. No people of color. No elderly shut-ins. Nobody struggling with homelessness or severe mental illness or generational poverty. There is no reason we should worship in a homeless kitchen and expect to see fruit. It’s ridiculous.

But God is saying Go. You are the people I wish to greet my children as they walk through the doors to meet me. You, who know you don’t belong where you’re going—I will give you the love and humility required to see my children and hug them close and speak into their lives as I speak to their hearts. You know nothing about this, but you will do fine because I said to go.

We’re moving during the season of Advent, when the focus is on what God has done—a child in a manger—and what he will do next—a king coming through the clouds. I’ve been thinking about our move through the lens of Advent, the lens focusing on future glory and past revelations, and I realize that in the Christmas story, my church is the shepherds sent from the fields to greet the new infant king.

The shepherds of Jesus’ day were not mighty men. They were low in the ranks of society. Nobody would ask shepherds to be the welcoming committee for a king. Nobody would expect a host of angels to visit shepherds. But God chose them, and they went. They didn’t argue. They didn’t shuffle their feet. They knew their status, so they knew this was something out of the ordinary, something contrary to the ways of the world. The angels sent them to see the miraculous, to see God’s new work, to see his glory, and they went. Nobody had ever asked shepherds to greet a king before, and likely it would never happen again, and who misses an opportunity like that?

I am a shepherd these days. God is saying Come, Jill, and witness my glory. Come see something new I am doing. Come and greet my children, who are living in the barns because in this world there is no room for them in the inn. Come and worship with them. Bow your head with them. Bend your knee with them. The angels call to a group of unlikely, frightened, complacent souls out on the fields, and we walk through the dark streets, no gifts to bring, not sure of the destination, not sure of our reception, not sure how to greet the king and his family. But we go.

I don’t know what God will do with a bunch of spoiled, white, middle-class citizens in the center of urban ministry. But I think the shepherds give us a hint. We will worship. That is all we’re asked to do, wherever He puts us. Worship and invite others to join in. That’s what Advent and Christmas is about. We look back to the first worship of King Jesus. We look back at his life and his death and his victory. Then we look forward and boldly worship while waiting, and we invite others to follow. Simply stretch out a hand and say Worship with me. Come see what the Lord has done. Come see what he plans to do next.

Next year, this will be a Christmas memory. Right now, it’s an invitation to be a shepherd and humbly go where God wishes me to go, and I extend it to you. When he invites us to wander new streets to see his glory, may we drop everything and go and invite others to see it, too. Great things are being done. The Kingdom grows every day. Let’s look for it and delight in it and humbly, excitedly watch it grow.

Jill Penrod is a Christian novelist of nearly thirty books in multiple genres. She writes inspirational romance/drama for teens and adults as well as Christian historical fantasy and sweet romance. Check out her books at or or her sporadic blogging at A mom of four grown and nearly-grown kids, she teaches her youngest at home and does pottery in her spare time. Usually she can be found at the computer writing books with a clingy Chihuahua in her lap.

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