Advent: You Need Jesus (Why Preaching Doesn't Work)

I hope that if you ever hear me preaching that you need Jesus, it's because I'm talking to myself. While I believe that we all need Jesus, I'm the only one I need to tell that to right now.

Tonight Nils and I ventured downtown (Anders was a little under the weather so Beth stayed home with him). This is an adventure in and of itself. I'm not a fan driving into the downtown of any large city. Even when I live a couple miles from it. The traffic was terrible, and we had to find a place to park which took way longer than I liked. Somehow we still managed to be at Nicollet Avenue in time to see the first float of the Holidazzle Parade coming down the street.

It's the last year of this Minneapolis tradition, so we wanted to see it one last time (we'd only been once before, several years ago--Nils didn't remember it at all). It's not all that terrific, but it's fun for the kids. There are maybe a dozen floats, but they're all lit up with lights. The people walking with the floats are lit up with lights. Even the marching band has lights. And the street is lined many rows deep with people standing in sub-freezing temperatures (tonight was a balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit), plus all the people watching from the sky-walk and building windows.

Yesterday was Santa Lucia Day, so it was fitting to take in the lights as we near the shortest daylight hours of the year. Part way through the parade some one with a sandwich board comes up behind us and starts preaching. It wasn't the "You're all going to hell" kind of preaching at least. The guy talked about how everyone needs Jesus. How Jesus is better than any present under the tree. How it doesn't matter if you're naughty or nice, you need Jesus.

For the most part, what I didn't tune out was at least a pretty decent message. The problem is no one cared, no one cared to listen anyway. The comments from people around me were either of an eye-rolling-"oh brother, here we go" response or of a joking, ridiculing nature. While the message may have been right on, know one wanted to listen to a man yelling religious platitudes at them in the middle of a parade. Not that I can think of many situations where people would want to hear that.

After the parade finished, a group of four men with plastic pails and drumsticks sat in the same place and started knocking out some foot-tapping rhythms. People stopped and listened.

I don't know the man who had stopped to preach earlier. I'm sure it was a brave act of faith of some sorts. Maybe God told him to go and do that, but I doubt it. And I know my judging him isn't much better than his preaching. But I think we need to take note of what works and what doesn't work. Preaching at people doesn't work. Giving them moments of joy does. Condemnation doesn't work. Helping someone out does. Telling people what they need doesn't work. Loving them does.

Advent is about being still in the quietness and waiting, listening.

In that waiting and listening I am reminded that I need Jesus. You may need Him, too, but I don't know that it's my place to tell you that. It's more my place to try and make this world a little better, which I can do because I've got Jesus. Sometimes a little plastic-pail-pounding rhythm is the best way to share that. Sometimes it's a plate of cookies for your neighbor. Sometimes it's just a friendly smile.

One of my facebook friends coincidentally posted a picture tonight that said, "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." May it be so.

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