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Archive for December, 2011

Being Scrooged

“And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

It is nearly Christmas, and I have found myself very “scroogey” at times.  While I really DO love the season, especially much of the music, I also see the materialism that causes people to be pepper-sprayed, trampled, pushed and shoved when Black Friday arrives.  What has brought us to this type of behavior, anyway?  So sad.

In the gospel of John we begin with the “Prologue” in the first verses of Chapter 1.  This introduces Jesus, not as a baby born in a manger, but as the Word or logos of God that becomes manifested on earth.  We believe that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation which means the very presence of God with us.  “Emmanuel” means “God with us.”  Maybe John had the best idea by introducing the more theological reason for Jesus’ presence here on earth.  He came not to create a holiday where everyone fought their way to the mall or Walmart or Target or . . . wherever they could find the best bargain.  Jesus came to give us hope, reconicliation, love, peace, joy, and eternal life.

Jesus would not be found shopping during this time; however, he would be giving.  He would be giving healing, laughter, love, care, a listening ear, wisdom, and hope to people who were in despair and alienated from the world.  He would have been in the trenches where people were hurting, disenfranchised, isolated, and lonely.  He would have been feeding the poor, clothing the naked, offering water to the thirsty, setting the prisoner (whether in body, mind, or spirit) free, helping the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the mute to talk.

One article I read this year was about teaching our children that it is FAR more exciting to give than to receive.  I know that’s an old cliche, but I think it heads us in a good direction.  The writer of this article said that on Christmas day, his family goes on line and finds a cause to support, giving generously to water projects in third world countries, adopting a child in Africa, or something like that.  Then they would go open their presents to each other.  What a great idea!  Our presents, when chosen in love and specifically designed for the ones we love are part of the giving process.

Dickens’ Scrooge had to learn that Christmas was about giving from the heart, giving to make a difference, giving because he really cared, and he learned that lesson.  Maybe we all need to be “scrooged” this year and every year as we seek to know God’s heart in giving Jesus to us – “Emmanuel,” God with us.  May we focus on the giving, not the getting, even though we will certainly receive gifts.  May our receiving be equally matched with our gifting.

This is my last blog this year since I will be on vacation for the week after Christmas.  May you all have a blessed Christmas, and may God walk with you during the New Year.

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Expectation v.s. Anticipation

[John] said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.  John 1:23

Expectations can be dangerous.  Of course, they can be good, too, but there seems to be some kind of let down lurking in the background when we place expectations on someone or something.  For example, we may expect our boss to give us a raise, and that very well could happen.  When that expectation is met, it’s great, and we are happy.  However, if the boss says to the employees, “Sorry, this has been a tough year, I can’t give any raises, much less bonuses” we would be upset, discouraged, and disappointed.

John the Baptist was an interesting character who was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.  He was an in-your-face type of guy who didn’t mince words and was highly confident in himself and his mission.  John expected God to carry through, and yet, later in the gospel of John, we find John the Baptist in jail asking Jesus if he really WAS the one.  Jesus didn’t fit his image of who the Messiah was to be.  John the Baptist was, after all, only human.  Was he let down by his expectations of God’s Messiah?  Maybe.  We don’t really know for sure.  What we do have in the scripture from John 1:6-28 is a confident John the Baptist who recognized that God had sent him to do a job.

Maybe “anticipation” is a more accurate word for us.  We can anticipate and still be let down, but somehow anticipating something leave open some room for margin of error.  By that I mean that we don’t get as hooked into what WE expect and want to happen as we leave the door open for God to work in the world in God’s way, with the idea that we can accept the outcome more graciously.  I anticipate that God will work through me, but I don’t know how.  I anticipate that God will continue to work in the world, but I leave some flexibility for movement and new ideas and new events to mold and shape me as I live out my calling.

Expectations, when they are rigid and inflexible, will often set us up for discouragement, disappointment, and sometimes anger.  Anticipations leave possibilities open.  There are times when we definitely DO need to expect something from someone or a situation, and then there are times when we just anticipate that SOMETHING will happen one way or another.  May God surprise us wonderfully as we approach the last week of Advent and as we are reminded once again to prepare our minds and hearts to keep welcoming the Christ into our lives, not just at Christmas, but every moment of every day.

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