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Dear <<First Name>>!

Blessed Advent Season to you!                    December 13, 2021 


As part of Advent, I’ve been reading powerful, creative poems from this book on the narrative of Jesus’ birth by Pastor Drew Jackson from NYC. Here is an excerpt based on Luke 1:5-25.

But God speaks through wombs, birthing prophetic utterances…Enough of this unbelieving religion that masquerades as faith. Divine favor is placed on what we have disgraced.

Those two lines drip with poignant Advent themes. The first phrase “God speaks through wombs” conjures up the beautifully vulnerable way Jesus entered into our world. Advent invites us to open our ears to hear God speaking in ways we don’t expect, perhaps through unlikely places, people or circumstances. Think about God whispering to Elijah from a cave in 1 Kings 19. Could it be that the more we venture outside our “saltshakers (Mt 5:13),” the more we’ll hear God speaking.  

For example, God recently spoke to me through one of my “unlikely” friends, Alyson Jacks (shown in picture). By “unlikely,” I’m presuming that most Christian ministers like myself don’t share warm coffee times with lesbian ministers of prominent non-Christian churches. During our coffee time last month, I was touched by some of Alyson’s contemplative and leadership practices. That evening I journaled about our blessed time and what I heard from God through her. 

The second phrase, “enough of this unbelieving religion that masquerades as faith speaks to what I believe the Lord is doing among Christian organizations during this global pandemic. Alongside beautiful facets of the Spirit's work, the church in the West has long been plagued with ills that include “Sunday” and “consumer Christianity,” and making “converts” instead of “disciples.” This pandemic is surfacing these masquerades among people and our Christian organizations; that’s the work of the cross. Let the masquerades be exposed; let repentance arise.

Divine favor is placed on what we have disgraced.” What a poetic way to articulate the honor-shame narrative we see threaded throughout the biblical narrative. A key verse, Rom 5:6 reminds us that Christ empathetically meets us in our areas of “disgrace” with divine favor. Think about the many disgraced elements in the Advent narrative, e.g. the personnel involved, the physical spaces, and more. All these elements were met with divine favor. I tried to capture this sense some years ago by retelling the Advent story in the context of my grandfather's hometown, Taishan (the biggest little hometown of American-Born Chinese pre-1965).  Behold God’s grace!

These kinds of narratives shouldn’t be reserved solely for Advent season, and boxed up like decorations the rest of the year. We’ve been training people in this narrative year-round. 30-year veteran campus minister Dave Fong comments on the training I conducted among the staff in his missionary organization: “Adding an honor-shame component to the presentation of the Gospel provides us with more options for connecting with people of different backgrounds and experiences.”

This Advent, consider how you can step into this Advent narrative by…  

Lastly, many see the end of the year as a chance to give something special to causes and non-profits like Kingdom Rice…
  • Consider making a financial investment through a special gift and/or monthly giving.  We are a faith-based 501c3 non-profit so all gifts are tax deductible (unless you invest via Fidelity, Schwab, Benevity, etc.). Those who pledge monthly typically invest $50 or $100 a month, some more, some less. There’s no minimum because God looks at the heart. Every year, along with a tax receipt, I share a summary of our profit/loss for donors. 
  • For those who are already giving, consider assessing your gift amount; some may increase, some decrease.
  • To set up EFT, Billpay, PayPal, or to send a check, see instructions on our giving site by clicking here: “How to Financial Invest” 

Every time I write a newsletter, I only share a very small fraction of the whole. This month, I've expanded my reflections on "God Speaks through Wombs" on the Kingdom Rice blog here. (You'll also be able to read a much larger excerpt of the poem there.)

And in case you've not seen it, I started a new blog as a result of my sabbatical. Having a blog that does not need to relate to my work, nor to teaching and training is a healthy step for me. Here, I share about learning to be still, the impact of our newly adopted dog, and daunting task of transitioning back to work from sabbatical.

To summarize our different written channels, this newsletter is written for Christians and is not easily seen on-line. Apart from this newsletter, the preceding two paragraphs highlight two blogs, a Kingdom Rice one (which has been going on for a few years) and a personal one which contains musings about my sabbatical; this personal blog gives me space to tap into spaces outside of Kingdom Rice. My newsletter is not shared with non-Christians, but my blogs are. In fact, they make great spiritual conversation starters.  

May God draw you closer into his presence this Advent season. Don’t hesitate to contact me regarding anything in this letter.     

Merry Christmas!  — Steve Hong

Copyright © 2021 Steve Hong/Kingdom Rice, All rights reserved.

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