A World on Fire: Advent Hope and Doubt

This Advent, @FirstPresHayward is delving into A World on Fire, exploring the traditional themes and stories of Christmas, but with a focus on

  • hope, doubt and the housing crisis (Zechariah and Elizabeth)
  • joy and belonging (Mary’s visit to Elizabeth)
  • love and the refugee crisis (the Holy Refugee Family)
  • peace and violence (King Herod)

Though we are using a standard Advent curriculum @firstpreskidshayward, we are overlapping it with the themes and ideas that our adult counterparts are exploring in worship in the hopes that meaningful family conversations will unfurl this season.

First Sunday of Advent: Mary’s Story

It’s no joke. Mary was freaking out, as my kids put it.

She was thirteen and unmarried. And suddenly pregnant — something my 11-year-old can’t even begin to imagine as I sit here pregnant with her third sibling. She rolls her eyes.

My tween is stoic and loves books about cat warrior societies. She wants for nothing. We live in a suburban bedroom community with a high-performing school district. We own a home in the Bay Area of California with higher education, job opportunities and cultural capital within arm’s reach. We are without a doubt globally wealthy and certainly live a comfortable American life. (As a family, we are the 1,857,686th richest person on earth — in the top 0.03%. Visit globalrichlist.com with your kids to put your family’s wealth in perspective for them.)

Life is relatively pleasant and privileged for my kids. All of them are kids of color. Two of them are female. One is male. Even in the Bay Area, they will experience their share of racism and sexism. We have weekly, if not daily, conversations where their unearned privileges or lack thereof come to light. I encourage a constant awareness of privilege and bias that helps us put into perspective our problems and our blessings.

Despite my oldest child often having her nose in a book, we walk through life with our eyes wide open.

After an abatement of a homeless encampment in our city, our church opened up an emergency shelter and resource center with the help of the county. The work continues into the winter, with an expansion that opened up 20 more beds for our unsheltered neighbors. While there is overall government and community support, a glimpse on social media makes it plenty obvious that there are people who choose to argue and place blame, to deflect, to ignore reality.

Homelessness is a reality. If we weren’t already seeing evidence of a housing or mental health or chemical dependency or Veteran’s affairs crisis on our city streets, we see it every week at our church. Racism, sexism, poverty, too — they are all realities. And they were arguably all realities that Mary also faced. That, and an unexpected pregnancy.

Life can be complex and difficult of it’s own accord. Throw any life into the societal crucible and see what comes out. Sometimes (read: All The Time) unexpected things happen. Bad things happen. Painful things happen.

As parents, it is our impossible desire to shield and protect our children. But, this does them a disservice. They learn to ignore, push away and deny feelings of confusion, fear, doubt, pain. Instead of learning how strong and resilient God made them, they don’t expand beyond the fragile frame we set out for them.

How do we walk with our children through the pain of the world — experienced or observed? How do we coach them through a world we know is on fire and help them to know that they will emerge from the flames — hurt, charred, changed maybe, but not shattered — that they will emerge like a ceramic work from the kiln: fireproof.

The Angel Gabriel brought Mary good news that changed her perspective — that brought her hope in a time of doubt. What good news of hope do we deliver to our children?

God is with you, surely. I am with you. You are not alone. You do not have to do it alone. You belong. You are God’s.

Not only what do we tell our children, but also how do we show it? How does our discipleship model in not only spiritual, but also tangible, actionable ways what God intended for humanity? For the human in my womb, the human rolling her eyes at me, the humans losing their homes, the Mary’s living in this world on fire? How do we hold hands, walk through the fire, toward the Beloved Kingdom?

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First Pres Kids Hayward

First Pres Kids Hayward

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Written by Lauren Gibbs-Beadle @firstpreskidshayward Children’s Ministries @firstpreshayward | educator, creative, parent | she/her