I’ve been feeling rather undone by Christmas this year. As I listen to carols playing I have found tears easily springing to my eyes. The familiar words so joyous, so glad have been wrecking havoc on my spirit. You see this year I got a little broken, my heart’s a little more fragile, a little more vulnerable. Grief has visited. Worry and fear have oft crouched at my door.
But my tears aren’t in sadness. They are a response to a deeper awareness of my need for Emmanuel – God with us. That I need the Prince of Peace in my every day living, all my days. The carols remind me, remind us of the hope, the joy, peace and love that is found in Christ. And as the carols sing of the promise of Jesus, I know that we live in the reality of that promise. That God is with us. That Jesus has come.
This year may have held its hard days, but they were not dark. For the promised Light of the World shone His light into my darkness. Brought joy when mine was gone. Jesus has displaced fear with His love, despair with His hope and left peace where there should have been none.
So while I may continue being a little teary this Christmas it is only because my heart is joining with the angels declaring “Glory to God in the highest!”
I’m not particularly gifted in hospitality. Actually the word “particularly” is probably superfluous to that statement! I once famously kept a friend of my flatmate’s on our doorstep for over an hour before it dawned on my that maybe I should invite the poor guy in. And maybe when I did I should have offered him a cup of tea or something while he waited. Don’t think I ever saw him again. I’m guessing he gave our house a wide berth from then on!
All these years later, I’m still learning the art of hospitality. This week I put my brave on and invited my neighbour who has moved here from China to lunch. Aside from meeting her when she first moved in and the occasional wave out I hadn’t done much more and it was bothering me. Yes language is a barrier, but she has been brave and moved to my country and she is in my neighbourhood. I could sit back and assume that others are extending invites and friendships, but what if everyone was assuming the same? I could also make excuses about the busyness of my life or I could simply step out and extend kindness myself.
Did it put me out of my comfort zone, stop me doing other things I wanted to do that day? Yes! Was I nervous? Yes! But sometimes living life is about us showing the grace of God to those around us. It’s about making space for those around us who might need it. It’s making room for new friends or talking to that person sitting by themselves at church or standing by herself on the sidelines. And while my action was simple it is something that God values and calls us to do.
At the end of the day, in a very quiet way, just maybe I made her day a little bit less lonely and mine a little richer.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions.” (Henri Nouwen)
I was having one of those “meh” days. Heading out late one evening to buy bread to make what felt like my millionth marmite sandwich for boys’ lunches, I wondered if in the scheme of Heaven I’d made any impact, made a difference at all that day for someone. My eyes then alighted on a Church’s billboard with the words “what you do and how you live matters.” A timely reminder that we do makes a difference. And if I needed anymore of a reminder a friend then made me aware of a Facebook posting she had made two years ago that I wasn’t aware of.
“Yesterday we moved into our new house in Auckland. And today for the first time in my life, a neighbour has brought us cupcakes to welcome us to the neighbourhood. I thought that just happened in movies. Kiwis you rock!”
That was me! (Surprisingly given my inconsistent record when it comes to baking!) On that ordinary day two years ago, I had a thought to take some cupcakes round to our new neighbours to say hi and welcome! On that day it seems I made a difference even though I was unaware of the fact.
There are so many ways that we can extend the love of God to those around us. From a smile, to a helping hand, to an encouraging conversation we can bring light into the darkness around us. We need to remind ourselves to look at our lives through Heaven’s eyes. Heaven’s perspective is different to ours and often values what we write off. Even in the mundane, the little or the seemingly insignificant moments we can and do bring glory to God. We shine His light.
“You will shine…like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:15)
(PS: Image is not of the cupcakes I made! Sadly!)
Peace. Love. Joy. Hope. The themes of Advent. This is the promise of Christmas. Through Jesus we have access to a peace that passes understanding, a hope that is secure, joy that is rooted in God and the unconditional love of the Father. All beautifully interlinked. This is why Christmas is something to celebrate.
The enemy seeks to rob us of our joy and peace, hope then becomes vulnerable and fledgling. During this time of Advent we have the opportunity to put joy, hope, love and peace front and centre in our lives. To remember that whatever we are going through the Christmas Promise is that God loved us so much that He sent His son to our world. With Him came His abiding presence, His rest, His redemption, His love. With the birth of Jesus came new hope, peace, joy and love.
This Christmas may the peace, the love, the joy and the hope of Jesus be with you.
It wasn’t the grandest of gestures from a friend. It didn’t involve flowers or an extravagant gift. It wasn’t a voucher for a spa treatment. But it was the most extraordinarily timed and perfect gift possible – that of a simple text message.
Friday wasn’t going well, a health scare had me slipping away from the office to rest before an emergency scan appointment. 11 weeks into my pregnancy and I was scared that I was losing the baby. As I drove home holding back tears, fighting fear and praying, my mobile alert of a text went. A simple text message from a friend checking in to say she was thinking of me and sending her love. It was encouragement for my soul, balm for a heart in anguish. Perfect timing. It was just what I needed. And being the friend she is, it led to a text exchange and her praying for me.
That’s the thing I love about God! His thoughts to us are always good and He knows what we need before we need it! It’s also what I love when we live with our hearts inclined to His whisper. A prompting, a hunch to take the time to act. In this case to send a text. The result – a partnership with God that reaches out and touches someone in need. We don’t know the impact that our seemingly little acts of kindness will make, the blessings that small acts of friendship give. It could be a coffee, a letter, a willing ear, a meal, an offer of help. Not headline news. But important, needed, of value – yes! And in God’s eyes precious indeed.
It all ended up ok. The baby was fine and is growing well! I am left though with an indelible mark on my spirit – how God demonstrated His love to me during a time in need through a willing and gracious friend.
I heard recently of a man who proposed everyday for a year to his girlfriend without her knowing. This man from the United States made a video for his girlfriend that showed each of the 365 days he asked for her hand in marriage. On her birthday a year prior he realised how much he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. But he wanted to propose to his girlfriend in a way that would show her how much he loved her and demonstrate that he thought about her every day.
So every day for a year he recorded himself holding a whiteboard with a marriage proposal written on it. Each day the proposal was recorded with the guy in various settings – at work, doing his teeth, walking on the beach, doing laundry, standing with random animals. Always though, the message was the same – “I love you, will you marry me?” . On his girlfriend’s birthday a year later, he gave her the video. And sitting by herself she got to watch a marriage proposal that spanned a year – every single day of the year a proposal was recorded. When she had finished watching the video she turned around and there he was with the same whiteboard on his knee asking her to marry him.
Rather romantic proposal I’d say!
It reminded me of God. God is always thinking of us, always wanting to demonstrate his love for us. Sometimes our circumstances and situations may lead us to believe that God is absent and our prayers aren’t being answered, but rest assured God is ALWAYS thinking of us! His thoughts towards us are always good and kind! Just like the romantic guy, God is working behind the scenes in our lives for our good and for our blessing. Every day He is demonstrating His love for us.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)