This week I would like to share with you all my first sermon that I shared last year at the beginning of Advent. May you be encouraged and challenged as you countdown the next 24 days until Christmas.
Two summers ago, I turned 30. I couldn’t have been more excited. I had definitely been waiting for this for most of my life. But at the end of the day, I knew it would be just another birthday. I would wake up that morning feeling the exact same way I did the day before. So I decided to ensure my milestone. 30 days before my 30th, I decided to do a 30 day challenge to my birthday.
Upon my decision, I started to make a list. It was compiled of things that I had dreamed of doing but never made a point to do, things that I kept putting off until I had enough time, and things that I was absolutely petrified of doing, but was still drawn to. I made sure it was things that I could actually do; that didn’t require a lot of resources, but still challenged me. I looked at my list and got even more excited. I wasn’t just waiting for my 30th birthday, I was preparing for it; this was my advent.
Being a challenge, I would say pretty much all the things on my list required me to step outside of my comfort zone. And if you knew all the things on my list, you would find out that this zone is actually very very small. During that month, I nervously stood outside of coffee shops, recreation centres, yoga classes and dance classes. I would get so anxious, I would start sweating and I would feel my stomach fall to my knees. I would loiter in front of these establishments while playing with my phone. Often times I would text my husband and my best friend telling them that I wanted to run away before I fainted, to which they would always reassure me that whatever I was doing was not worthy of such a drastic reaction. But it was to me — I was stepping outside of my comfort zone! Doing something I had never done before but dreamed of. Actually, I’m being generous when I say dream, because they were really more nightmares full of humiliation and strangers pointing and laughing.
On Day 23, I approached one of my favorite restaurants, L’academie. I had been there so many times with friends and family; it was even where we went following my wedding reception. I knew the menu like the back of my hand, so I felt that this was the safest bet. As I walked up to the host, I quickly and firmly said, for one please. He put down the second menu and led me to my table for two. I was squished between 2 couples. I believe I had to say 2 more times that I wasn’t waiting for anyone before the cleared the other plate. I’m not sure if I was imagining everyone looking at me with pity but I was feeling it. I hid my phone because I knew it would only be an escape from this difficult experience. I was determin
ed to spend time with me no matter how awkward it felt. I did read, which confirmed to everyone in that restaurant that I was not waiting for anyone. When I left, I felt liberated. I almost didn’t even recognize myself. Who was this girl? So confident that she was able to sit in a beautiful restaurant by herself. And God quietly whispered, she is you, Kisha and always has been.
Life is often so fast that I don’t get the opportunity to stop and realize how far I’ve come. I spend most of my time believing I’m still that awkward girl in high school dreaming of accomplishments for the distant future. I rarely take the time to reflect on all the dreams that have come true and all the things that I’ve worked hard to accomplish, and obviously, as I’m preparing to turn 30, thinking of my accomplishments was very important. And it’s so easy to get caught up in the things that you haven’t yet done. By 30, I have no kids, I don’t own a house, I haven’t paid off my debt, I haven’t started my own business, I haven’t travelled to Africa and I still haven’t had laser eye surgery. Oh, yes that list could go on. And this past year, as my mom prepared to turn 50, I watched her obsess over the list of “have-nots”. I refused to spend this milestone doing the same. So I spent my 30 days being proud of myself! And taking part in this challenge, as I accomplished even more no matter how small, added to the feelings of pride at the woman that I had become. I wasn’t waiting until 30 to become the woman God had called me to be, I was already that woman. And He spent that month showing me this truth. I wrote myself a letter to be opened when I turn 40 that allowed me to reflect and express my accomplishments and successes, as well as my dreams for the future.
But then I took it a bit further. I started to remember all the people that played such a big role in me becoming me. The people that I think about almost every day with feelings of joy and thankfulness. The people that have helped shape my faith, my career, my view on friendship and my view on marriage. So I wrote 30 letters to the most influential people in my life. People that I see every single day and people who I haven’t seen in over a decade. I wrote letters to old bosses, high school teachers, and even parents of my friends. I let them know how thankful I was for them and how by being themselves, they allowed me to find myself. Some letters I cried until I had to stop writing while others I laughed at the amazing memories we shared. Jesus has no hands and feet except for ours; and I am so thankful for the people that were able to be Jesus in my life at some point, whether they realized it or not.
But of course, I am also called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. So as I prepared to turn 30, I shared the love of Christ with others. You might be saying, well Kisha, you don’t just need your birthday to do that! Of course not, I try to do that every day. I don’t, but I do try. But for my challenge, I decided to take it one step further. To do things that I had always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or was just too scared. On Day 14 of my challenge, I placed 30 notes in random books in the bookstore that said “you matter very much”. I placed them in books all over the store, including self-help books, sci-fi books, books about depression, and teen books. I prayed that the people who found these notes would be especially in need of hearing this message. That’s the joy of serving a very mighty God, that you just need to do it and He can orchestrate the rest. But there are times when I don’t love how mighty God is and how great He is at orchestrating things.
Day 21 of my challenge was the most difficult of the month. This was the day that I was going to take a panhandler out for lunch. I have given out blessings bags to the homeless and I have served in soup kitchens, all very safe and structured environments; none of which require me to really step out of my comfort zone to love. Working downtown, I see the same panhandlers every day, so when I decided that I would take one out for lunch, I had a short list of who it would probably be, because it was always the same people in the metro at lunch time. That didn’t change the fact that I was more nervous than I had been in quite a long time. So I asked my co-worker to join me on this excursion. As we approached the metro after the lunch rush had ended, we prepared ourselves to look for very specific panhandlers. We even talked about which panhandlers we would never do this with. That guy who is there every morning just calling for change without a cup. His clothes look ironed?! Why is he even out there? He doesn’t even say please. To our surprise though, as we begin to go down the escalator, we see the shoes of the panhandler that we have the least amount of concern for. What is he doing here now? This isn’t his shift! He only comes in the morning. It doesn’t matter, we quickly say, there must be others. Meanwhile, I’m saying a brazen prayer to God, “this was You wasn’t it?!”. I’m pretty sure I felt God smirk. I decided that we would do a quick tour of the underground to find those who we wanted to take for lunch. But the metro was empty. It’s never empty! As we started walking back to the unloved panhandler, I started to panic. Must I take him out? But he only speaks French. I can’t do it. My co-worker was being so supportive; reassuring me that no one will know if I backed out. God will know! I said maybe I can just give him some change since that would be a challenge within itself. As we got closer, I realised I only had my debit card on me so without hesitation, I blurted out to the panhandler that I had no change but would he like something to eat. After a moment to realize what I had asked, he said yes. My co-worker was also shocked and followed us to the food court. I asked the panhandler what he would like and he chose McDonald’s. I was shaking. I didn’t know what to do or say. And I felt all the French words I knew quickly escaping me. As the cashier took our orders, I decided that buying his food would be the challenge. So I took my food to go while he took his food to stay. We stood there awkwardly. He thanked me repeatedly. When our food arrived I told him bon appetit and my co-worker and I started to head out. As we reached the doors, I felt God tugging at my heart. I will know, He said. I told my co-worker that I had to go back and thankfully, he came with me. We joined the panhandler at his table and started talking to him. We talked about his mental illness and how he cannot work. We talked about the small town he was originally from. He asked about our work and as we shared, we watched a very hungry man eat. We were overwhelmed with feelings of humility and shame. We had judged him; we had decided that this man was undeserving for whatever reasons. But who were we to judge this man without even knowing his story? This man who clearly needed hope.
In this present day, our lives are spent going through the motions. Holidays and celebrations come at the same time every year and we do the same thing we did the year before. This is especially true for Christmas. We start to mentally prepare ourselves for the stress once Halloween costumes are on sale because we know that Christmas is soon around the corner. And then we decorate, shop, bake, and cook just like we’ve been doing for the past decade or more. And we hope that the our generosity in toy drives and food baskets or our heavy involvement in church pageants would make the advent season more religious than the secular world we live in. But at the end of the day, we find no hope in knowing that a baby was born in a manger to a very deserving couple. It just feels like another day, the only difference is that we’re exhausted because we’ve spent at least 2 months thinking about it.
Despite these unfortunate realities, we all know this world needs a savior today as much as it needed one 2 thousand years ago. We are surrounded by broken families, depressed co-workers, and abused neighbours. The news is only filled with war, destruction, and loss. We live in a world that not only has no hope, but they don’t even realize it’s an option.
So I must challenge you, because how could I not? How are you going to make this Christmas a milestone event? How are you going to step out of your comfort zone and the routine of your holiday season to share the gift of Christ with another? Jesus isn’t coming as a baby. Advent is not about waiting for Him. Advent is about waiting for you! Waiting for you to be the light in this very dark world in a way that only you can do. It’s about you embracing the person that God has already created you to be and being that person!
When you love your work, they say that you never work a day in your life. I encourage you on this first day of Advent, to fall madly in love with Christ’s message of hope so that you can bring it, with joy, to this hopeless world.
Featured photo taken by Michael Itri