I had decorated for Christmas. I had been to a sweet, festive Christmas gathering among members of my extended family whom I see usually only for funerals or weddings. I had read and listened to Luke and Isaiah and other pertinent scriptures related to Advent and the Incarnation of God in Christ. And I had contemplated a variety of ways to help stir up awareness of the Holy Spirit’s Presence in our midst this season. I posted the seasonal “cheer” on Facebook last year and it popped up again this year. So I shared it again. Last year I was struggling mightily with rallying the Christmas Spirit and I was striving at that point just to stir up awareness of the Holy Spirit’s Presence in me!
December 8, 2018:
“Suggestions to make the season brighter:
Pick up a piece of trash as you walk about. Plant a tree or shrub. Sweep or blow your block Help a neighbor. Give space for others to merge in traffic. Smile at people. Invite friends in for coffee and cookies if you are in your own home. Be kind to grumpy people. Thank public servants and workers. Feel free to add other suggestions.”
Revisiting this means of exhorting myself and others, I added these two suggestions today:
“Smile at people. Listen well to their response when you ask them how they are doing.”
A Sister-Friend who used to be in recreational ministry and close by and with whom I have shared spiritual confidences in the past added this suggestion:
“Let someone else have that really close parking space, enjoy getting the extra steps in and wish them a Merry Christmas.”
Her reminder stirred a memory for me and made me smile.
I had done a brief “homily” at my extended family’s gathering on the importance of remembering Christ this Christmas and doing that through remembering our own special and joyful times as children or with our own children during Christmases of our past. We shared memories together and talked about God’s purpose in giving us the capacity to remember some things so well and to forget other things altogether. I had taken several boxes of gifts from among my own personal belongings. Some were family hand-me-downs. Others were dollar store finds. But the purpose of those “whimsies”, as I called them, was for those present to select and keep something for themselves through which they could recollect a memory and create a story of their own experiences of Christ, Christmas, or family times.
So, having just “preached” to my family about sharing our memories and allowing them to help us tell our own stories of Jesus’ Presence in our Christmases or in our lives at other times, I figured I would dive in and tell a story based on my Sister-Friend’s suggestion and reminder:
“You’re hitting really close to home on this one! God used prime property, close up parking spaces during a holiday season years ago to show me that HE was in charge. I had a prime spot from before Thanksgiving until after my birthday in February every time I went anywhere during that busy holiday season!. Then it stopped as suddenly as it started! It was clear to me that only God could have orchestrated such a lengthy run of parking space preferential treatments! It didn’t occur to me that God was testing my selfishness at the time! It seemed we were engaged in an ongoing demonstration of “how much do You love me, let me count the ways?” And he was making a point that even the tiniest, most mundane circumstances, concerns, and time demands of my life are not beyond his notice and concern. Then when it stopped I knew I’d learned what God had intended me to learn and had equipped me for something that was to come……. I could not have survived the test that would come later, much less pass well enough (thanks to his boundless mercy and redemptive grace) to be used in other tasks for God if I not had that special three months of him getting my attention by such a subtle, yet intimate, extraordinary and totally inexplicable experience. I learned to trust that God is present, good, sovereign and loves me personally NO MATTER WHAT and I was able to thrust my hand into his with full trust that he would never let me go! That made times when he felt absent due to moments of temptation considered or indulged unbearable due to the possibility of his fellowship being withheld (even when his love was steadfast!) and would lead me IMMEDIATELY to repentance and restored relationship. This kind of accountable fellowship on God’s holy terms combined with the intimate and unconditional nature of his love makes my relationship with God the single highest priority and most satisfying relationship in my life. Every other one has to find its priority beneath that one! ………
And THAT, my Sister-Friend, is why Christ cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me??” Not because God had abandoned him or removed his love away from Jesus Christ, but because for that split second, as he surrendered his human self – spirit. soul, and body- to physical death, that Human Self having always been in perfect union with the Holy Spirit, the body was left for that moment to feel the absence of the eternalness of the human soul-and-human spirit/HolySpirit union. The fellowship of God with Jesus Christ’s human Self was broken in that split second. And THAT feeling, the loss of intimately knowing, abiding in and conversing with the Holy Spirit within one’s own human spirit, is something that the psalmist David and all of us have surely felt at times in the body. Jesus Christ was so fully human along with Divine that he chose to feel EVEN THAT in the brief time out of fellowship with the Triune Godhead of which he was a part while he embodied the sin of the entire world upon his body. But NEVER was he abandoned by God’s love. THAT, we are told, being permanently out of fellowship with God due to our choice to reject God, is spiritual and psychological death and, in a word ,HELL. I never want to dwell there but desire to remain in permanent, consistent, confident, intimate fellowship within the holy limits required by The Holy and Almighty God while still in the body and when wrenched from this physical body to experience the permanently-bound human soul-and-human spirit/Holy Spirit heavenly existence! This is why the Incarnation of God in Man through Jesus Christ- a one and only event given to us at Christmas 2000+ years ago is so special. He chose to come to us to show us the depth and steadfastness of God’s love AND the demands of his righteous justice, while taking upon himself the price required by that justice upon his own body. I am without words to express my own gratitude and love for so much love expressed to me by Jesus Christ, my Lord and God!”
Another Sister-Friend added this
“When you notice something good about someone (appearance, actions or otherwise) SPEAK IT!! You never know how much power that word of encouragement or acknowledgement can do to alter the course of their day, maybe even their life.”
I want to add another similar thought as we close out another year. I have had several friends and others who were close friends- of –friends in the last two years who have died in one way or another through relapsing in addiction, being engaged in risky addictive behavior without family members’ knowledge (or with their passive enabling consent), or from delayed consequences that finally caught up to them after earlier years of reckless living or continued insistence upon living in denial of their problems. Some deaths were accidental, some suicide, and some just the natural results of denial of or disregard for the physical toll of addictive behaviors upon one’s body
As I talked to a family member of one of those dear friends lost to our fellowship this year, I found myself screaming inside. “NO, satan. NO MORE!” I am going to do what I can to expose you and your subtle seductions. I’m tired of playing diplomatically and “staying in my own lane.” My lane runs right up to the gates of hell and I’m coming for you! I’m sick and tired of you picking off those who are vulnerable or who have not heard and understood and laid ahold of the fullness of the message of Christ’s GIFT OF SALVATION. It IS NOT JUST A TICKET TO DODGE BURNING IN ETERNAL HELL! IT IS ALSO A PROMISE TO HAVE POWER TO OVERCOME YOU…..THE ENEMY….. IN THE HERE AND NOW AND TO LIVE INTO THE HOPE, JOY, PEACE, LOVE, CONTENTMENT AND FULLNESS OF ALL THE OTHER “ABUNDANT LIFE” ATTRIBUTES OF CHRIST HE DIED TO GIVE US HERE AND NOW!
I’m done with being coy. I’m going to call out your allies as well as those you are using without their knowledge and understanding of how some activities they think are loving, good, and helpful (or at least not hurtful to others) are actually doing little more than giving you an endless shooting range to pluck off people who think they are safe because they are “good people” or because they “haven’t done anything really bad” or because they “believe in Jesus” or even because they “love the church.”
So, be advised lucifer, satan, beelzebub or whatever you prefer to call yourself at any given moment. God is God and you are not. I’m sick and tired or you playing around the edges of our ever-widening haven of peace, our sanctuary wherein Christ has come to dwell here on earth. I’m wise to you and I’m coming……… And I am not coming alone.
Jesus Christ is with me. He’s here. And the truth is, he’s always been here. He’s just been biding his time waiting for the right moment. And there are now a whole army of us who have learned to escape your snare by clinging to the fringe of his robe as he walks among us, often unnoticed, but never absent. You thought that because he was not here in the flesh for us that we thought he might not truly be here at all. NOT. You thought that because we couldn’t see Jesus and experience him in human-to-human physical community like his first disciples that we would get cold, bare feet and weak spines. NOPE. You thought that having to rely on the imperfect examples of human conditional love and fickle faithfulness that we’d grow weary and lose hope of ever seeing the REAL THING. I’m here to tell you we have neither cold feet nor weak spines. We are not weary or lacking in hope. And we are on the march. And the gates of hell will NOT prevail. “It is written……..” You know those words and you know what comes next. So sit there smugly thinking you’ve plucked off another sweet soul from among this flock. But you haven’t. And you will not continue to torment others. I’ve got your number.
One ringy-dingy…….Two ringy-dingy…… You had better start loading up and heading out. You are done here, ‘bubba. CBB12-9-19