Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Thursday, December 17, Evening
By Steve Richardson
The Church of How
Read John 1:14-18
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
It was the early 1970s, and we were a contingent of Holston Conference youth spending a week in New York City to learn about global issues at the United Nations. On a chilly Sunday morning, we entered a large window-less warehouse-like room in an aging building in Greenwich Village. It was anything but a “church”. But that’s what our youth group leader, Rev. Bob Bostic, told us the place was – a church; a United Methodist Church, in fact.
The ordained minister’s name was Izzy (his last name has faded in my memory). The congregants, about 30 in number and diverse in appearance, sat in a large circle. A somewhat-familiar United Methodist order of worship was followed. The big exception was the sermon. For that, Izzy introduced a concept based on scripture, then the congregants all shared their own personal perspectives. The theme that Sunday was love of neighbors. Everyone had much to share, including their own experiences of the pragmatic importance of loving relationships and support for one another, despite the turbulent, challenging times facing our nation during those years. Their comments were nurturing, deep, insightful and articulate. They were rooted in personal struggle and obvious faith.
The profundity of that worship service has stayed with me ever since. In retrospect, among other things I learned that day, I realized that “church” is more than merely a physical space, more than a building. Church is not only a “where,” but it is also a “how”… how God brings us in closer relationship with one another and with God.
So, too, could be the manger in Bethlehem. Yes, it was a place, a “where”, but it too, was a “how”… how God, through Jesus, granted a remarkable way to forge an unprecedented human-to-human relationship with each of us.
God, in our hearts we know you desire an on-going and regular relationship with each of us. You have shown us in many ways how you long for that. Guide and inspire us to sustain that relationship on our part through our prayers, gifts, service, mission and love among our neighbors in need all around us.