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The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts is minister emeritus of First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, AL.

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First United Methodist Church, Monroeville, AL


Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Looking for God?

December 03, 2009

Those who are attentive to the liturgical calendar of the Christian Church know that we are now at the beginning of the Christian year. Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent - the beginning of the Christian year. The four Sundays preceding Christmas Day are Advent Sundays. During these four Sundays Christians are to prepare themselves for the Coming of the Christ - The Messiah. This does not mean that we are not to look for God in our world at any other time of the year. Advent gives special emphasis to something we believe is happening all the time.

God comes to us in many ways all year long. We do not always recognize God's presence, but God is there. A few years ago I read an article by a reporter who observed a food distribution at a mission. Here is his account of the event:

"The line was long but moving briskly and in that line at the very end stood a young girl about twelve years of age. She waited patiently as those at the front of that long line received a little rice, some canned goods or a little fruit. Slowly but surely she was getting closer to the front of that line. Closer to the food. From time to time she would glance across the street. She did not notice the growing concern on the faces of those distributing the food. The food was running out. Their anxiety began to show but she did not notice. Her attention seemed always to focus on three figures under the trees across the street. At long last she stepped forward to get her food but the only thing left was one lonely banana. The workers were almost ashamed to tell her that was all that was left. She did not seem to mind. In fact she seemed genuinely happy to get that solitary banana. Quietly she took the precious gift and ran across the street where three small children waited. Perhaps her sisters and a brother. Very deliberately she peeled the banana and very carefully divided the banana into three equal parts, placing the precious food in the eager hands of those three younger ones. One for you, one for you, one for you. She then sat down and licked the inside of that banana peel. I swear I saw the face of God."

This reminded me of the woman at the Sojourner's community in Washington, DC who prayed before food distribution: "O Lord, we know you will be passing through this line today. Make us gracious servants whether we recognize you or not".

This is Advent. Are you looking?


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