Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful…

So…what is Christmas really about?

Love. A love so great we cannot comprehend. About God, who sent His precious baby Son into a world of sin. About the Son who would become the ultimate sacrifice so that man could witness this kind of love. So that many could accept the free gift of forgiveness and live in complete relationship with God. It’s so different than the kind of love we are capable of. But it’s the selfless kind of love we look to follow and to model. We are to give of ourselves in love to others.

That beautiful message often gets overshadowed by the mounds of materialism and the clutter of commercialism. To counter that this Christmas, we join with our church and with many others in the “Advent Conspiracy.” (See the video on YouTube.) We want to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All” to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.

We just finished our study of Acts with our small group. After Jesus died, as we all know, that was just the beginning. The story continues with the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in the formation of the Church. It’s the story of the Gospel Message being spread powerfully from Jerusalem to Rome and to the ends of the earth. In those early days of the Church, all the believers were one in heart and mind and they shared everything they had…the Bible says there were no needy persons among them. (Acts 4:32-35 NIV).

Contrast that behavior with the present day. The Advent Conspiracy video highlights the fact that the world spends $450 billion on Christmas, yet for only $10 billion we could solve the world’s water problem…

This Christmas, we are giving our loved ones simple gifts to show our love for them, because sharing our “presence” is more important than our “presents.” Instead of adding to the clutter of consumerism or the mounds of materialism, we were moved to help Samaritan’s Purse build wells so more people around the world can enjoy clean water.

We strive to share of ourselves and live the message that consumerism does not equal happiness, memories and meaning. We aim to worship fully by giving our “presence” and loving like Jesus.

We wish you all the true peace of Christ, even in the midst of whatever challenges and concerns you are facing. It is the true spirit and message of Christmas you can take with you all year long!

God, we worship you and thank you for the precious gift of your Son. We are humbled and amazed at your great love. May all come to know your peace. Let your Presence be in everything we share this Christmas…in Jesus’ name.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Love First

A work friend got married yesterday. The sun was shining and more than a foot of snow was hanging in the trees from our mid-week storm. Pine and holly adorned the church and she was a beautiful bride in her elegant white gown accented with dazzling red trim. The sparkles in her long train matched the stars in their young eyes.

The minister gave a thoughtful message. As was his practice during pre-marital counseling, he had asked, "Why do you want to get married?" The answer, as always, was "Because we love each other."

His followup question is, "Why do you love each other?" With this, he says, he gets different answers, but most couples talk about how wonderful the other makes them feel.

He told them what they are describing is "being loved," and yes, it is a great blessing to be loved and to know it. "But to love is quite different than being loved," he distinguished...

Being loved is only half the equation. (And not the half we need to worry about.)

To love is to put the other person before yourself. To love is to help your partner to be the best they can be. To love is to think of their needs and to think of what it means to make them feel loved always, through everything. Love often means sacrifice.

If more would remember these words, more marriages would be solid, more children would live in secure homes... What a great reminder to everyone who attends a wedding. We are there to support and encourage the new Mr. and Mrs. to make their marriage the best it can be. And in the midst of it all, we remember what it means for us to keep the sacred vows we made.

The world wants to tell us life is "all about me" and "getting what I need." If we listen long enough, we start to believe it. But Christ gave us a very different example. "We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19 NIV

He loved us when we were unlovable. Sometimes we are still "unlovable," yet how great it is that He still loves us. If only we would love the way Christ loves His Church. We are to love first!

"Give and it will be given to you... a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 NIV.

Dear God, thank you for the marriage of our friends. And I thank you for a wonderful marriage. I pray for all our friends' marriages to be solid and strong. Would you please help us to love the way you love? the way you intended love to be? Help us to remember to serve our partners always and help them to be the best they can be. Help us to love first and love well. Thank you for your awesome example of real love.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Be Still

Job cuts are right around the corner at work. Will I survive?

So clearly God had led me to this job (see Where He Leads). But it doesn't mean forever... It means I need to trust Him for the next step, too.

It would be a great loss. A job I love and the people I do every day with. I so enjoy my routine. And if I do survive, the cuts will surely affect my colleagues and friends. Life will not be the same. We are living each day as if it may be our last, thanking God for what we have. He seems to say...

"Be still and know that I am God."

As we strive to prepare for the coming of Christ this Christmas, life is not without its weighty concerns. We have friends who are perplexed by job loss, pressured by illness, overwhelmed by financial struggles or relational chasms. Oh, Jesus, the world needs you so much now. And He seems to say...

"Press in, be still and trust me."

My sister gave me a small round delicate box with a scripture on the lid...and the same one inscribed inside: Be still and know that I am God. Ps. 46:10 NIV

As I admired it, I told her the verse was perfect for me right now. Just as I wondered, "what can I put in this beautiful little container?" she said, "I was trying to think of something to put in it for you."

Then it occurred to me, isn't that what we always do? But maybe instead of trying to "do" or "fill," we should appreciate "empty." Instead of planning every minute, crowding our schedules or filling the silence, I feel God is challenging me to preserve the time and space to just be still.

My little box is a new reminder to empty my mind of all the "to do's" and just be still...for a patient, pensive moment...and know that He is God.

Father God, thank you that you are in control. You know all our concerns. Let us be still and listen for your still small voice. Give us the peace that passes all understanding, the true peace of Christmas. You lead the way and we will follow. You are all we need.