Posts Tagged ‘society’

bth_MarywithBabyJesus[1]It’s 4:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve and I never expected to be so heavy on this day with the things that are weighing on my heart. I’m not the only one I know. So many are facing much greater burdens and much greater life challenges. This season of joy and love and peace doesn’t always live up to it’s reputation, does it?

Well – actually it does. The TV specials are sparkly and white and soft and beautiful. We are led to believe that for Christmas to be Christmas we need the perfect outfit, the perfectly decorated tree, the perfectly wrapped gifts and the perfect loving family around the table. But today I’m realizing again that although the birth of Christ was the climax of that Bethlehem night, there are so many subtle lessons surrounding the momentous event.

Stress, worry, pain, shock, disappointment, confusion – all the things we live with today were in existence then. I would guess that a few sharp words may have been exchanged between Mary and Joseph along their journey, brought on by exhaustion and the weight of responsibility. Stress does that to us – brings out the irritation in our voice, the too quick answer, the sharp word.

I suspect that as Mary and Joseph made their way through the streets of the city on their way to the stable they fought crowds that had flooded the city. You can’t tell me the merchants didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to expand their line of products and overflow their streetside stalls. To purchase a simple meal Joseph would have had to stand in a long line, with impatient shoppers,  wailing children, tired, cranky clerks. Been there?

And as gentle as Mary appears in scripture, there is no way she didn’t crinkle her nose and give Joseph that “You’ve got to be kidding me” look when they entered the barn. Eating isn’t the only thing animals do in a barn, people!

God sent His Son in an ordinary way because He wanted ordinary people to be able to relate and accept this incredible gift. He wanted the poorest to know poverty doesn’t keep us from Him. He wanted the rich to know you must bow not buy your way to Him. He wanted the clean freaks to know even filth and unpleasant smells can’t keep Him away. He wanted the simple to know it’s not complicated, and the wise to know it doesn’t take a masters degree to find Him.

And the gifts – if you are anything like me, you have been wracking your brain, scouring the stores, scanning the internet trying to find the right one for each person on your list. I know Christmas isn’t about the gifts – but then again, it is. If I stopped shopping and tried to explain to my family from the 5 year old on up that I didn’t do gifts this year because Christmas is about the birth of Christ – I don’t think that would go over well. They know that but it doesn’t mean they are willing to give up gift giving.

So how can we take all of the not so wonderful things of Christmas and make them a part of the wonder, the miracle and the message? Here’s what I’m trying to do.

First, I’m taking my burdens, stress. irritations, frustrations and worry and I’m putting them in a gift box lined with prayer as tissue paper. I’m not skimping on the tissue paper either. I’m stuffing that box full until it pretty much overflows. Tissue paper is cheap. Prayer costs even less. 

Next, I’m putting the lid on that box because I know if I don’t I’ll be reaching in and taking those burdens out again and again to rearrange and ponder and carry them around for a while before putting them back. I’m taping the lid down so it won’t come off.

Then I’m pulling out the most beautiful wrapping paper I can find and covering that box with it because I want it to be visibly worthy of laying at the feet of Jesus. I want Him to know I’m serious about handing it over.

And the next thing I’m doing, after I walk away from the box, is pulling out every bit of kindness and gentleness and generosity I can find in my clothes closet and that’s the outfit I’m wearing today and tomorrow and hopefully beyond this weekend so I can bring the missing joy, peace and love to those around me.

Because I’m learning the lesson of Christmas.  God knows the pressure. He is aware of the demands on my time. He understands the things that make my heart heavy and my tears flow. But He set the Star of Bethlehem in the sky to show me the way to the Son of God in the manger and allow me to discover the truth of Christmas. 

It’s putting my trust in the Baby who became the Savior,

so I could travel from the Manger to the Cross,

and let Him come from Heaven to my Heart,

to make peace where there is none, to bring joy where there is sadness, and to give hope when things appear bleak. He gave Himself to me and I’m paying it forward.

Praying a beautiful Christmas for all of you.

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Today our local paper ran an article about the opening of homeless shelters now that temperatures are dropping close to the freezing mark in the evenings.  One man interviewed stated he was thankful for the shelter where he could come in out of the cold and find something to eat. Homelessness is something I know exists but have never experienced, by the grace of God.

Last night my bible study ladies discussed a lesson on being thankful.  Without exception each lady stated they were thankful for a home that was warm and dry. To my knowledge not one of us has ever had to shelter under a piece of cardboard or shiver through the night on a frost covered park bench.

Two years ago a co-worker got involved in the homeless shelter her church opened and she told me a story I will never forget. She was helping deliver food to a community that had formed along the river in our area and was shocked to find a young couple and their two small children living there.  Their story was heartbreaking.  Both parents had lost their jobs and consequently their home. They were fairly new to the area, had no family or other resources to help them out and ended up where they never dreamed they would ever be – sleeping along a river bank with two little boys.

How many of you picture dirty, scraggly haired men when you think of homelessness? I do.  At least I did before that incident. God brought the message of judgment and compassion home to me in a big way that day. Homelessness is seldom a choice. It is the result of tragic circumstances.  Admittedly sometimes those tragic circumstances are brought about by bad choices people make. But not always!

My heart broke the day I heard the story of this little family. I was privileged to be a very small part of rescuing them from their situation. I don’t know where they are now but I’ve never lost my compassion for homelessness or my sincere gratefulness for a roof over my head, a warm place to come home to at the end of the day, and a soft bed to lie in at night.

Homelessness is like so many other issues we bump up against as we travel through our day.  Poverty, crime, abuse, pain and suffering are out there. We hear a story and for a moment our hearts are moved.  The problem is we tend toward apathy because we aren’t directly affected.  And I’m afraid that’s what Revelation refers to when it speaks of the church of Sardis.  Sometimes called the “dead church” they seemed to have little passion for the needs outside their doors.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty and I’m not trying to push anyone into jumping in and offering up your basement.  But I do want us to keep homelessness on our hearts and in our prayers every day, especially as the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall.  Here are some ways I think will help us do that.

  • Wake up praising God for a good night’s sleep in a warm bed. Don’t take it for granted.
  • When you see someone on a street corner, push that first thought out of your head and respond with an immediate prayer for people in need. Ask God to help you be descerning in your decision to give or not.
  • Get involved in some way with your local shelters – give food, clothing, blankets or time.
  • Carry items in your car that you could offer to a person in need like gloves, hats, scarves.
  • If you can possibly do it, call your local shelter and volunteer to spend a night serving a meal and making those that come in comfortable.
  • Always, always share the love of Jesus with the lost and lonely.
  • And when you walk into your house at the end of the day, before you yell at the kids for the mess or complain about another meal to prepare or lament over the power bill, thank God for all of it.

Finally, if you have trouble finding a heart for the homeless, remember that spiritually you were one of them once. But it was taken care of by the Christ who cannot look upon a child in distress and keep from weeping. Let’s be more Christlike.

“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:17

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