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Hey YAVA (and others who may read this blog)! Check out this reflection from Patrick, who is currently serving in Northern Ireland…

“The youngest Scout group I work with is called Beavers. The first group of kids I worked with back in September was this group of 6-8yr old boys. They. Are. Awesome. The first night I met all these little hoodlums, they played a game that was like Charades but with a prop. The prop was a big white stick. The last boy to go, who I’ll call Sheldon, was eager to get ahold of the prop. As soon as I handed him this long, plastic stick, he looked at me, and said quietly but with conviction, “Whack the Yank!” then proceeded to hit me in the shin with the plastic rod. I learned his name before I learned the names of any of the others.

Obviously, Sheldon isn’t often the best behaved child, but there’s something about him that gives him a special place in my heart. Even though I have to say his name (a lot) and take him off to the side to have chats and time-outs,  he has always known my name and loves to ask me about America. So I can’t stay mad at him when he continues to show such curiosity and genuine interest.

A few Beaver meetings ago, the boys were to bring in school supplies for a school in Gambia. Each child was assigned something different. The leader, Maureen, a wonderful woman I enjoy very much, spread out all of the supplies along the floor after they had all brought theirs in to show the boys all that they had for the school. Sheldon, after looking at everything, says, “How much do they have?”

“Not much, Sheldon. That’s why we’re sharing some of what we have with them.” replied Maureen.

“That’s not enough! What else can we do?”

[You know that millisecond when you get the sneaky suspicion that you may be on the verge of experiencing an “Ah-Ha!” moment for a child?]

“Well, Sheldon, what would you like to do?”

Sheldon was thinking. There was silence, but it gradually broke. Some of the other boys started talking, and Maureen got up and went over to a table at the side of the room to get some boxes to put the bags of supplies in. I watched as Sheldon took off his brand new indoor soccer shoes of which he was so proud (there wouldn’t be much money for these in his home), and he proceeded to crawl over to the pile of supplies and carefully place the shoes in one of the bags, side by side.

I couldn’t take it. I stepped outside the door, wanting to laugh at the irony of God’s hand at work. The kid that is such a pain in the ass had made an ass of everyone, myself included, that worships a material consumer culture. But I didn’t laugh. I cried.

Advent is about Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” It’s about God taking on flesh and arriving in a manger to show us a path of love and grace. But here’s the catch. When the Incarnate God entered the world as a baby, it snuck up on everybody. Some people wanted a new David as Messiah (a warrior king), some wanted a new Elijah (a shock and awe magician), and some a new Moses (a law-giver). But Jesus wasn’t any of those. He was born in a barn that smelled like poop, raised in a blue-collared town that was seen as being no-good as the son of a carpenter, grew-up to hang out with all the wrong people, to live a life dependent on the hospitality of others, to challenge the religious and political systems of his day, and he preached, “Blessed are the poor.”

This Advent, look for where the Incarnate God will sneak up on you. It’s easy for our attention to be drawn to the glamour and festivities and gift-buying, but in the midst of that, a child will make an ass out of us…and for that, praise be to the Living God.”

For more from Patrick and his experiences in N. Ireland, check out his blog here

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