As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Monday, December 18, 2006

I believe it was Bach that said he sat down at the keyboard and waited to receive. This was his method for composing so many amazing musical pieces. Tonight, I am following Bach's example. I have sat down at my keyboard and am prepared to receive.

Christmas is a week away. How does it come so quickly? Two weeks ago I thought I was doing well and had the gift issue under control, and I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. Now we are a week away, and I feel it has snuck up on me and caught me unprepared. Gifts are mostly under control, but then I found out we are having Christmas dinner here, which I enjoy, but I am not prepared with food. Even with that, I thought it would be easy to take care of, but then, Rob and Anna started running fevers. We had extra ministry responsibilities. Robert had a doctor's appointment. A friend asked if we would watch her son for a few hours, and we are delighted to do so. Did I mention the women's party at church or the business meetings for Rob? It is amazing how quickly our calendar filled up. Three days ago we had one afternoon scheduled this week. As of this morning, we have one afternoon free. It is amazing to me how things can so quickly get out of control and how quickly things can get lost in the shuffle and busyness of life, and I don't just mean this time of year.

This time of year we hear how people are so busy working on celebrating Christmas that they forget to celebrate the Christ-mass. It's nothing new. 2000 years ago Jesus had the same conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees. "You're so busy keeping the law and the rules that you've missed the One who gave them to you so you could have a relationship with Him." The rules precluded relationship, not enabled it. It could be argued that Christma has taken on the same character. We are so busy looking for the perfect gift that we end up not enjoying the one for whom we are buying it. Impression becomes more important than expression.

We want folks to be impressed that we knew just want to get them. Nothing wrong with giving the perfect gift as long as it isn't a token brought about by a Pharisee mindset. The Pharisees want to impress God by showing Him their righteousness done in His name on His behalf. What God wanted was an expression of love and gratitude in response to what He had done on their behalf.

Today we try to impress God by declaring that Christ is the reason for the season. From what I've read, Christ is the reason, period. We need to purge our thinking of ideas that we are impressive because we take a holiday and rally around it as a reason to do good things and to think beyond ourselves. If such giving is a seasonal thing, can it truly be that impressive? Doesn't God desire more out of us. Doesn't He desire for us to live a life that expresses love to those in need on any given Monday no matter what the date is?

Is it really so impressive to put a smile on and be nice to everyone in church on Sunday, or is it more expressive of our relationship with Christ to put a smile on and be nice to the rude driver that cut us off or the family member that once again left wet towels and dirty clothes on the floor in the bathroom?

I don't think there is anything wrong with being extra generous this time of year. I think we've failed to miss the point if it is ONLY this time of year. More than that, though, whenever we choose to be generous with our money, patience, or helping hands, we shouldn't do it out of compulsion with the idea that we are impressing God. Instead, our heart should be that of Christ who came for the purpose of EXPRESSING God.

On Christmas and every day, may we all have the heart to express rather than impress....

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