Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Christmas" Translated

It's almost Christmas and I'd like to say thank you. Thank you to those of you who take time to read and check out this blog. A special thank you to those of you who encourage me via comments on the site, Facebook, in person, and by phone. It is a wonderful thing to see God work and be part of His grand plan to grow, encourage and change us!

There is a basket of packaged goodies by our door this season for those who provide services to our family week after week, month after month (find recipe here). When countered by "Bah-humbug! Rzzle dzzle phzzle pop" attitudes, I am reminded that Christmas is a time to say, "I see you. I love you. You are important to me."

That's what God did at Christmas. In sending Jesus to earth, God incarnate, He effectively said, "I see you. You are important to me and I love you."

When the angels appeared to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, they communicated His message: "I see your desperate need. I know your finite, trapped, earthly existence; the pain and loss, the agony and emptiness. I'm here to help." And He is the only one who could help; the only one who could bring peace, joy, satisfaction, and significance. And He did. At great cost (see sidebar).

How simple, then, for us to extend ourselves with a thoughtful gesture, a kind word, a small gift or expression of thanks that says, "I see you and I love you." It's an outpouring of gratitude to the One who saw me, who left all that was His to give of Himself for me--thirty three years and an eternity's worth.

Now if I can just stand in line at the store without being impatient....

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-5, 14, 16-17 NKJV)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Miracle

Shepherds and stink. Lanolin. Sweet smelling pellets. Steaming urine. Sweat. Layered clothing. Man smell. Beards. Smoke. Mud. Coarse laughter.
Angels. Good news. Good tidings. Great joy!
Shock. Silence. Weak limbs. Knees. Stillness. Slack jaws. Wonder.
Darkness. Stares. Craning. Nodding.
Excitement. Clambering. Running. Labored breathing. Wood on stone.
Searching. Peering. Knocking. Cursing.
Peace. Worship. Rejoicing.

People and sin. Selfishness. Pride. Unkindness. Shielded hearts. False appearances. Bitterness. Demands. Criticism.
Jesus. Death. Resurrection. Good news!
Shock. Disgrace. Embarrassment. Wonder.
Searching. Peering. Knocking. Asking.
Struggle. Surrender.
Peace. Worship. Rejoicing.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Always Winter but Never Christmas

"Snow is falling, softly falling; oh, what a wonderland, bright and new!" began the elementary concert. And as the songs went on, and the children covered their giggles and tucked into themselves in embarrassment, my heart grew heavy and sad. There was nothing wrong with the songs they sang, or the choices of the director or any of what was happening on stage. But something greater was missing. Suddenly I was in Narnia and it was always winter but never Christmas.

Leaving that day I thought of the two little boys ages nine and eleven who drowned in a family pond not far away, and the eighth and eleventh grade students died in a car accident this week. "Children are dying and no one will say 'Christmas.'"

There is hope in that name. There is forgiveness and unconditional love. Christ holds the joy and peace we seek so desperately. He holds the key to life--real life, abundant life--and eternity. He is the light that shines in the darkest of nights and the dankest of places. Apart from Him there is no good thing.

What's the answer? After visiting with the administrator, whom I know and respect, I understood this was not a political move, but a considerate one. It doesn't feel right, but God has allowed it. What can I do? What will I do? Keep living, keep speaking, keep holding out the name of Jesus.

One practical way, a way many others across the country use to share Christ in their community, is through Good News Clubs.  Our team meets regularly after school (in the school) to share Jesus with children week after week. We teach and sing and share Christ. Then they do, too, opening the door for staff and students.  As we practiced for the concert one boy said, "When's Good News Club?"

"What's Good News Club?" the next child in line asked. An opportunity. And a drop of snow melts in Narnia.

Our country has changed, is changing. But with the greater, stronger division between the Kingdom of God and that of this world comes a stronger message; a bolder witness. When it's the norm to go to church, God alone know the tares from the wheat. But as the price for sitting in a pew grows greater, as the ridicule increases and the penalties mount, those who know the Master heed His call. They speak His Name, fueled by His power. Darkness is pushed aside. Light pierces, reveals, heals.

Speak Christ. Not to push an agenda. Not to be the voice above all voices. But over a quiet cup of coffee, in the bustle of shopping or the din after concerts, to the heart breaking and rent, the heart given to despair weeping silent tears. Speak peace. Speak Joy. Speak Hope. Winter is here. And it's almost Christmas.

The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined....
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

[Jesus speaking]: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:17-21)