Advent is here: Do you have enough socks?

As we draw nearer to Christmas, the tensions mount. Our inadequacies become insurmountable stumbling blocks. We don’t want to let anyone down. We want to please everyone. How do we do that with our Long Expected Jesus on our minds and in our hearts? What does being the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world look like?

 

Do we have enough Christmas socks for every day of the week?

Do our children have enough?

How many pairs of Santa, Snowflake, Jingle Bell, and Angel earrings do we have?

Do we need another Christmas sweater this year?

Can we eke out one more Christmas with that blue number that’s 20 years old?

If we don’t look like everyday is perfectly full of Christmas Joy they will think we have the bah-humbugs.

How many dozen cookies do we need to drop off at school, salon, pet groomers, etc?

Did we make extra for the kids’ Sunday School teachers?

They would wonder if our child showed up without them. And the next appointment at the salon and the pet groomer’s would be embarrassing because we didn’t get them something.

Did we sign up to help in our child’s class for the “Holiday Party”?

How that’s going to happen with the toddler in tow? They are going to think we don’t have enough money for a baby sitter….

Have we gotten every teacher on our children’s gift list a present?

Oh, and mustn’t forget the principal, the assistant principal the secretary and attendance clerk! And the school nurse- since our little darlings visit at least three times a week. After all, what will they think if we don’t?

Are we the practice coach for the high school choir Christmas musical?

If we don’t help out the musical won’t sound as good as it did last year and it will reflect on us.

Did we make enough candy, cookies, snack mix, cakes for our husbands to take to work?

Did we make a double batch of each to take to our work?

You know our husbands and co-workers so look forward to our goodies we make every year!! They will think we don’t care anymore or that something’s wrong.

Have we made a list of Christmas card recipients we want to make sure we don’t forget?

How about putting them in a database on the computer so we’ll have them for future reference?

Where are the cards we received last year? 

You know we must send them a card this year, etiquette, you know.

Did we schedule a time for pictures with Santa for the kids?

Did we buy Christmas outfits for every child for the pictures?

What would the grandparents think if we didn’t send them the annual picture- they would think we forgot them on purpose. Boy, would that make for a very happy Christmas Dinner. Remember last Valentine’s day when we forgot to mail the cards? Don’t want a repeat of that conversation.

Did we schedule the progressive dinner with our lunch bunch friends and get the menu in order for this year?

They so look forward to it every year, but it’s getting harder and harder…

ON THE OTHER HAND…

What if we brought up the subject of spending the money we would have spent on the dinner to provide for those who have little reason to celebrate this year, would they hate me for spoiling their fun?

Have we scheduled in the shopping for the needy family with that group of 10th grade girls in the youth department at church?

The children in that family won’t stay warm this winter unless we bring them socks and jackets and hats and mittens and blankets. On Christmas Day there would be a peanut butter sandwich- maybe- without the food we take. And the girls begin to understand….

 Did you answer the voice mail the kindergarten teachers left for you-they need a volunteer to go with them to the nursing home to take Christmas cards and sing carols for them. Will you go?

The joy the children bring to those who can no longer care for themselves, for those who are so lonely because they have no family near, and for those who have forgotten nearly everything about life except the carols they learned as children is evident on every face. The joy the children bring back to school infects everyone they tell.

Did we make that phone call to invite the woman in our Bible Study who lost her husband a couple of months ago to the Christmas Eve service with our family? 

She’s only been back to Bible Study once since he died. Her son is serving in Afghanistan and she keeps to herself most of the time. Her heart is broken in grief; healing takes time but she’s not sure she has the strength to go on. She needs someone in her life right now to hold a hand to put an arm around her shoulders to help her continue. 

Did we welcome the refugee family whose children started attending our child’s school?  Is there a language barrier? Can we help?

They are so far away from home, and there is no home left. All of their relatives died. They came with the clothes on their backs. There is nothing left from before….

Have we stopped to talk with our kids about the Reason for the season?

Have we talked with our neighbors?

How about the co-workers with the perpetual frown on her/his face?

Do they understand why we celebrate?

DO THEY KNOW JESUS? How will they know unless …. 

 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”Matthew 25:34-40

You know the first set of circumstances don’t define us(me) or the people we connect with at Christmas, but sometimes we(I) can get caught up in the feel good work that indirectly gives us(me) the credit and we(I) can forget the hands and feet work of the servant of the High King whose coming we celebrate. 

How do you keep that from happening where you are? I’d love to hear what Jesus is doing through your kids, your family, your friends, your church and your neighbors to touch the world as His Hands and Feet.

Not What I Expected

The following quote comes from a prayer in a book of puritan prayers and devotions that Chuck Swindoll referenced a few months back. The prayer struck me at the time and I wrote it down, read it and have come back to it from time to time. These last five lines speak for that puritan, and I think, all of us.

“Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee.
Convince me that I cannot be my own god, or make myself happy,
nor my own Christ to restore my joy,
nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, and rule me. . . .
Then take me to the cross and leave me there.”

The writer was unknown. But the cry of the heart is familiar. We –I – struggle with the whole “who’s in charge here, really?” on a daily basis. My wants, My needs, My life, My time, My things… I could go on but why bother? Truth is at one time in life, my expectations for what it would be like were scripted out in my mind like a finely tuned screenplay for a movie. MY Life. And, truth is, it hasn’t gone exactly as scripted. Surprise! Not.

We puny humans trod, trudge, march, skip, run, along this road called life, going merrily on our way until we suddenly realize the road has changed. At times it’s for better; at times it’s for worse. When it gets better, we smile, we laugh, we pat ourselves on the back, glad to be alive. When it all goes horribly pear-shaped and unrecognizable as our life, we cry out to God, we wail, we gnash the teeth, we ask “Why?”, “How long?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”, “Why am I being punished?” Finally after railing about for a while we get down to the nitty-gritty with Him and ask “Please take this away, far away?”, and then the promises begin, the bargaining commences and we grovel.

If we truly believe He is God, and He is in control of our entire lives-yes, I know it’s a hard concept to swallow at times knowing we are not in control of what is happening; we fall to our knees and we still ask some of those same questions. Only, we add a few more; “Please forgive me?”, “Tell me what to do?”,  “Help me to understand?”, and then we listen to His reply. The reply which may be long in coming (to our thinking), may change the way we think and perceive our situation, and may change our point of view entirely. He knows what is happening. He knows that even the no good, horrible, entirely rotten, sad mess is there to galvanize our faith; to bind us close to Him and to show us how to be loved by Him. We still weep; we still ask questions; we still hurt. But He is God.

He loves us, He provides everything we need, He gives good gifts, He prunes so we can be more fruitful and be healthier in spirit, He prepares us for the battles ahead, He spares us from evil, He surrounds us with His angels, and they fight for us because that’s their job. Yet, we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.

He created us for His good pleasure.  His pleasure. He made us for Him. He sees all of our lives from beginning to end. We can see His work in all things- if we but look.  The wrong, the bad, the ugly messes in this world are committed by us, His Creation. But, His will is always done. Understanding the prayer of the puritan helped me realize that his cry, his plea is also mine. Convince me. Then take me to the Cross and Leave. Me. There.

Teach me, purify me, do whatever it takes to get me to the foot of the Cross. Whenever I get to that point where my desperation for Him and His Presence consumes my every breath, my every thought, my every action, motive, attitude and my gratitude, then I will abide in the shadow of the Cross.

There- in the center of His Will.

Not mine.

I’m not there yet.

My life has not gone as I expected it.

But then, I didn’t write the script of my life. He did. And, I am living out that script; looking forward to arriving at the foot of His Cross and staying there instead of coming and going like a fool who can’t make up his mind what he really wants.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: Job 13:15a

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1Peter 1:3-9 

God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2: 13b-14