Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Is Here

Candles flicker in the nativity scene.  Coloured lights twinkle in the dark.  Presents overflow their space under the tree.  Christmas is here.

John Lennon sings, “So this is Christmas.  And what have you done?”

What have I done to prepare for Christmas?  What have you done?

Christmas is a bit of a schizophrenic holiday.  There’s the busy cooking, baking, shopping, cleaning, make everything perfect, Santa’s coming personality of Christmas.  And there’s the Advent, slowing down, contemplating, preparing the way, and God with us side of Christmas.

Personally I don’t see anything wrong with a little bit of schizophrenia in the holiday season.  It’s only when the balance shifts to the busy, at the exclusion of God with us, that we have a problem.

December is our busiest time at work.  Not only do our clients want to get as much advertising as possible on the radio in December, but we also run our biggest promotion of the year as a station.  We work to bring Christmas Miracles to families in need of some love and help to make their Christmas season better.

By the time the week before Christmas rolls around we’re all pretty exhausted.  Late Monday afternoon another Manager came into my office. 

We were talking about how we were both looking forward to a rest over the Christmas season.  She made a comment about a book I had in my hand.  With a note of irony in my voice I shared what I’d just been reading from Ann Voskamp’s book, “The Greatest Gift”.

“The miscarriage of Christmas begins when anxieties crowd out space within simply to carry Christ.  Make room; be a womb.  Be a womb to receive Christ everywhere, and it is He who delivers everyone.  So you let the last of the trimmings go.  Cease the pace to do, buy, produce more.  Find the calendar and erase.  Somewhere make space.  And you can feel the space become a sanctuary.”

We looked at each other and laughed. 

“So this is Christmas.  And what have you done?”  Have you made space?  Do you have time to receive Christ as He comes silently tonight? 

Read the Christmas story starting with Luke chapter 1 and read to the end of verse 40 in Luke chapter 2.  Make space for Christ now.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2014

What Can I Do To Please God?

The first week of Advent is almost over.  Back on Monday I started reading Ann Voskamp’s book, “The Greatest Gift – Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas”.  It’s provides a reading for each day leading up to Christmas.

She includes scripture passages, some thought provoking reflection, and an activity for the day.  Yesterday’s activity was to do one thing just to please God.

I had to stop and think about that.  What could I do that would please God?  I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have a good answer. 

I thought of Random Acts of Shineness.  On Wednesdays ShineFM, the radio station I work at, encourages people to do something kind and unexpected for someone; hence Random Acts of Shineness.  I could buy coffee for someone, but that seemed fairly unoriginal.

Walking into Walmart that morning to buy gifts cards for client Christmas gifts I thought, “Here’s my chance.  Maybe I can do something that will please God here.” 

I took all 65 gift cards (yes that’s 65 cards that have to be activated individually) to the cashier.  She began to ring them up and I felt sorry for her and the people waiting behind me.  What would please God in this situation?

“Give her one of the gift cards,” my brain said. 

Now it’s funny how we automatically question something that’s out of the ordinary.  “What, give her one of the gift cards?  That’s a little weird, and it throws my count off, what if she gets in trouble for it?”

But the thought persisted, so after she processed the last card, I thanked her for her trouble, took one of the cards, and tried to give it to her.  She refused, saying she was just doing her job. 

Well that attempt crashed and burned.  So, what else can I do that will please God? 

I stopped at Tim Hortons to pick up a Take 10 coffee box for my next meeting.  Another thought occurred to me.  When I paid for the coffee I asked the cashier to ring through six $5.00 gift cards.  After paying, I handed him back the cards.  He looked confused, but then I explained that one was for him to keep and the others were for the next few people in line.

This attempt went a little better.  He declined the one for himself, but asked if he could save them until the next morning.  He said he had regulars who came in and he’d like to treat them to a morning coffee.  We agreed this would put them to good use and off I went.

Did that please God?  Maybe, but I think it was more of a “Random Act of Shineness” than a God pleasing moment. 

I have to face the fact that most days I don’t think about whether my daily activities are pleasing to God.  Usually I’m caught up in the busyness of daily life and don’t take time to do the small acts of kindness that show God’s love.  Sometimes it takes a wake-up call like the simple question, “What can I do to please God?” to bring me to my senses and start paying attention.

I’m glad yesterday’s devotion made me think about this question. Because of it, I’m now more aware of the people around me during this Advent season and I’m looking for ways I can please God.

What do you do on a daily basis that pleases God? 

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