Archive for December, 2010

I Got Nothing for Christmas

          I got nothing for Christmas and it was great! In our continued quest for simplification Pat and I managed to escape the “hustle and bustle” of the Christmas season and it was a great experience. Our time was more centered on family, enjoying each others company and most of all the true meaning of Christmas. We had our traditional family Christmas Eve gathering at our old church with two rows of Weese’s seated in the sanctuary spanning four generations. It was truly special. You see I actually did get something for Christmas, the blessing of family and friends. Nothing wrapped and placed under a tree could come anywhere close.

         As I still try to adjust to this new season of our life (the empty nest, grandparent thing) I must admit that I miss those Christmas mornings when we would prepare the family room with music, Christmas lights and hot chocolate before allowing the kids to come down and open their presents. Now they each have their own families and memory making traditions as time continues to blaze forward. We’re still a part of it but it’s different. We’re at that interesting point in life where we can view the past and the future all at once; the blessing of having parents with us to share the holiday as well as children and grandchildren with a couple of grand dogs thrown in. It’s all about legacy. While the legacy includes memories of Christmas past, family traditions and all the trimmings of the modern day yuletide season it goes far beyond all of that. It’s the intangible things that span the movement of time; love for God and love for each other. These are truly the only gifts that last.

          As I watch the holiday madness unfold on the news reports with visions of people pushing, shoving and trampling each other as the security guard opens the doors to the store I wonder how things came to be this way. According to the media, Christmas success is based upon retail spending and the consumers’ ability to purchase the latest Christmas craze item. Stores stay open all night, people rush to the stores to participate in “black Friday” and finances are exhausted on purchases that otherwise would not have been made. An exhausted populace begins the New Year trying to figure out how to pay off the credit card bills as they begin to roll in after the holiday frenzy. I’m reminded of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem as they missed the time of their visitation (Luke 19:41). How many are lost in the busyness of the season and missing Jesus all together. It’s been two thousand years since He walked among us. For all but the last sixty Christmas wasn’t like this. Maybe it’s time to reflect on what Christmas meant in the past, before easy credit, rampant materialism and the neurotic pace of life “we now enjoy”. Maybe it’s time to get nothing for Christmas and get everything at the same time.

He May Be Closer Than You Think!

          “He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near…”. These words were spoken by an English officer who spent time with Dietrich Bonhoeffer the last days of his life while imprisoned together in Flossenburg, by the Nazi regime. Why is this a rare characteristic among Christians? Is God real and always near to you? If so, do others see this as a description of our lives?

          In all probability we see ourselves as falling short of this standard. Is such a relationship reserved for only a privileged few or does God desire that all of us have such an experience? Simply put, I believe that God does desire an intimate relationship with every believer; however it can be quite a struggle to find it. If we look at Phil.4:7, we are given some insight that will prove helpful. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) This result follows an admonition against worry (vs. 6). We are told to “be anxious for nothing”. Again, this is a truth that we can easily accept but find quite hard to live. Why is this so difficult? Perhaps it is due mostly to our lack of perspective. If we break down verse seven into components we will see some perspective needed for our success.

          First of all whose peace is it? “…the peace of God…” is what the scripture tells us. It is His gift to us after we comply with the instructions given in verse 6, approaching Him in submission with thanksgiving. This is a supernatural manifestation of His Holy Spirit at work within us. He changes our perspective about things even if He doesn’t change our circumstance. We are given a different viewpoint, one that removes fear and doubt, one that we cannot otherwise see on our own. We are further told in verse 7 that His peace (His answer) is beyond our comprehension. We cannot implore logic to get the same result. This isn’t so much seeing as it is accepting. Now God is being real and near to us. Others now can see what God has done in us and we can truly be a witness.

          The last part of the verse shows us the maintenance of our relationship with Him. When we surrender our will to Jesus and accept His peace unconditionally our hearts will be guarded against worry and kept “in Christ Jesus”. His perspective will be ours. Unfortunately, we can tend to think of this as an infrequent occurrence or struggle with trying to live there. Struggling with this process is part of our spiritual growth. God desires for us to learn and grow in our relationship with Him as He brings us face to face with our self will and the things He desires for us to place under His control. We come to learn how strong and deep rooted our will can be.   

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit (NASB)

          As we begin to learn God’s process we also will develop an understanding about sin. Simply put, un-confessed sin will always prohibit you from having an intimate relationship with God and distance you from His favor. Repentance is a gift from God as is faith. Verse 6 directs us to seek Him in prayer with thanksgiving. We need Him to show us those things that we must drastically deal with in our flesh in order to honor Him and to come into a right relationship with Him. It all depends upon His process and remains a supernatural transaction. Christianity can be a harsh and at times challenging belief until we realize that it’s not about us at all. His peace can be gained only by accepting His will for us and our relationship begins at the point of discovering our true need for Him.