Even though they are connected with other, Townhouses, by definition, are homes that "have 2 or 3 levels that are attached to another townhouse by a shared wall". If you are looking for privacy, this isn't the place to live. But if you're looking for community, you'll probably find what you're looking for.
Back in August, we dropped our son off for college - where he would be living in one of those townhouses with some other guys. We didn't know what to expect, but we were expecting God to do big things in his life. We always believed that He would; we just didn't know when He would. After an amazing first few months, God showed up in BIG ways and really brought about some amazing transformation. It wasn't because of the townhouse, though. Yes, they live in a gated community with amenities galore (including a RaceTrak right outside the gate with a slushee machine - I'm jealous). But no - none of that brought about this transformation. That happened because God worked in his life, and He worked through the people around him.
Sunday night, we were blessed to watch him get baptized. I won't go into all of the life events that made that such a powerful and redemptive moment, but I will confess to you that I may or may not have cried a little...okay, I cried a lot! It was incredible to see the joy on his face when he is around the people of God that he does life with. I'm thankful for a church who carries out a Mission of Grace in their city to reach college-age and young-adult men and women with the Gospel and them helps them understand the community that is shared in that.
After those baptisms, the Pastor then preached a message to get us all started in thinking about Jesus coming. Since this is Advent season, we need to be getting ready for His arrival. He spoke out of Luke 1, where Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and is told that she "will be with child and give birth to a son" and that she would name Him Jesus. The Pastor talked about this great responsibility that this young girl would have, and then he concluded by talking about the relationships she would have. When Mary wondered how this will would happen, here are the words Luke records:
"The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:35-37)
As I sat there, I thought about all that was bunched up together in that passage. Like a row of townhouses with shared space, there are some key points for all of us here in Luke 1.
1. When Jesus comes, we each have a responsibility to live out what God calls us to. No one can do it for you; each of us has to do this. I can't do it for you and you can't do it for me. It won't happen because of what your mom or Grandma did. You and I have a decision to make. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must be ready and willing to go wherever He tells us to go, live with who He assigns us to live with, and learn the lessons He wants us to learn.
2. When Jesus comes, He will bring some other people around us to help us grow. I thought about this a lot the other night as I watched the baptisms. Each of the people taking this step had people right there in the tank with them, some of them who have walked with them through dry and barren days and who didn't give up on them. They never judged them; instead they loved them. Elizabeth would do that for Mary and our son had a friend who did that for him. And now we each need to think about and pray for the people we should build relationships with.
3. When Jesus comes, He will bring the Holy Spirit to help us. Mary didn't get "with child" on her own, but we all know that she hadn't gotten "with child" with Joseph's help, either. That isn't how they taught us babies get here in 7th Grade Health Class....so how did this happen? By the Holy Spirit coming upon her and overshadowing her. Even though I've always heard this, I don't really know how to make sense of that. This means God did a miracle here - something that can only be explained by Him doing it.
Each of those baptisms was a work of God, and I'm praying that He's not done. There will be more work to do in the lives of those making that public declaration of their inward transformation, and there will be more who come to know Jesus because of it. There will be chains falling off that bound them, healing from pain or trauma will happen, and people will move from isolation to sharing space with others.
As we pray this week, ask God to show us how to get ready for Him to come. Who are you praying for that needs to take responsibility and choose to follow Him? What can you do to help them find Him and then find relationships with other people? What work does the Holy Spirit need to do in you or among you? And when He does, how will you respond?