I Seek the Mediator

December 18

I SEEK THE MEDIATOR

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between

 God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 2:5

 

Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m the only person left in the whole world who has the faintest idea what Christmas is all about. I listen to my children covetously perusing the flyers from the toy store; I listen to my co-workers complain about the crowded stores; I listen to my husband muttering under his breath as he tries to get the tree to stay upright; I listen to my neighbour complaining about the grocery boy who brought the wrong order. I listen to Santa’s hearty “Ho, ho, ho”. I listen to the P.A. in the store announcing the latest 15 minute special, to the sound of cash registers, Chipmunks’ Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.

I see the strained faces around me, the pinched mouths, the weary eyes, and I wonder what I’m doing here. I feel like a stranger, a sojourner, far from my home, lost and alone. I yearn for a kinder world, one which welcomes the coming of the King as a joyful celebration of love, not as an excuse for an over-the-top party of getting, getting and doing.

But…a small magical moment happens, telling me that this is home and I do belong here, and that the celebration is happening despite what I see and hear. They are small things, these moments, gentle mediations between myself and this world.

A kindergarten choir singing Away in a Manger, their small faces alight with the wonder and joy of the season.

The sound of bells ringing and a warm “God Bless You” from the Salvation Army worker standing by the kettle.

The smell of pine boughs and hot candle wax hanging heavy in the air during the choir concert.

The sight of snowflakes dusting the outdoor nativity scene on a downtown church lawn.

Such small things to tell me that others know the story as I do. Together these small moments become a powerful mediator between the crassness of our worldly Christmas and the holiness of the manger at Bethlehem. Each is a blessing from the One who stands to welcome me to the throne of God.

 

MEDITATION: Oh Lord, help me to see the small moments in my world that tell me that you are indeed Lord of all. Open my eyes to the blessings you have poured down upon me. Open my heart to those around you who seek you as I do. Amen.

 

Advertisements

I Seek the Good Shepherd

December 17

I SEEK THE GOOD SHEPHERD

“I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11

 

I’ve never given much thought to the first people to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth – the shepherds on the hillside. If ever, I’ve only thought about them when it’s time to put together the annual nativity play at the church. The shepherds have always been the starting roles for the junior children. As the years go by, they can aspire to playing one of the kings, an angel, or even Mary or Joseph.

No one is expected to remain a shepherd year after year because it’s such a small part in the pageant. First we see them sitting on the stage around the Boy Scouts’ artificial campfire, wearing someone’s old bathrobe and a tea towel headdress. If they’re one of the senior shepherds, they may have graduated to carrying a wooden staff. A little acting is required when the angels appear – surprise, fear, awe – an open mouth and widened eyes usually convey the message. Then, a scene or two later, the parade onstage again and stand in their appointed places around the manger.

Theirs is not a difficult part and certainly not a show-stopper. The Angels, the Three Kings and the Holy Family always draw the ooh and ahhs from the audience. Shepherds are…well, shepherds are just ordinary folk, not glamorous or exotic.

And yet, they were the first to hear the good news. God could have told kings, emperors, rulers, rich men, chiefs or priests, yet he chose the shepherds. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because he wanted to make sure the news reached down to the lowliest of his people. Perhaps it was because he wanted to emphasize the humble state of his son on earth. Perhaps it was because the shepherds were there, unquestioning, obedient, willing to seek the new babe.

When Jesus speaks of himself as a shepherd, perhaps he is doing the same thing – emphasizing his humanity, yet at the same time, assuring us that he is our Lord and Savior.

 

MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, open my ears so that I can hear the Good News spoken to me. Open my heart to receive the message of the angels. Open my eyes so that I can see the road that leads to the manger. Amen.

 

I Seek the Door

December 15

I SEEK THE DOOR

“I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will

be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

 

When I was nine years old, I attended a Christian Camp. As part of the program, we had Christmas in July, and, as part of the Christmas “season”, we put on a traditional Christmas pageant. I was Joseph. I remember it well, since I had to wear a horse-hair beard, a flannel dressing gown, and a towel headdress – and it was at least 85 degrees in the shade.

We had fun, but we knew it wasn’t even close to the real thing. In our experience, Christmas was deep snow, starry nights, frosted windows and icy blasts, not sunny skies and warm beaches.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized our camp Christmas was the real thing to those who celebrate in Australia, where a picnic on the beach is a Christmas tradition. And, as more of my friends opt for a Christmas holiday in the sunny south, even my North American perception of what is right – is wrong!

“It isn’t a real Christmas without snow,” some say.

“It doesn’t seem like Christmas if I miss the Sunday School Pageant,” another says.

“I don’t feel very Christmassy this year,” someone tells me. “I guess it’s because we haven’t put up our tree yet.”

Each of us has our own little doorway through which we must pass before we can declare, “it feels like Christmas”.

And so it goes. We all have our own little measuring sticks for determining the realness of our Christmas. And yet, when it comes right down to it, the only measure of Christmas is the reality of the birth of the babe.

The babe; the child Jesus; the son of God, the door through which we enter into eternal life.

 

MEDITATION: Almighty God, help me strip away all the trappings of this coming celebration. Lead me to an understanding of the infinite truth of the day: that your Son was born so that I might have eternal life. Thank you. Amen.

I Seek the Deliverer

December 14

I SEEK THE DELIVERER

“And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion,

 he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’.” Romans 11:26

 

It’s right there in the middle of The Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil.” Obviously, Jesus knew that we were going to have a hard time handling this stuff ourselves, and that we were going to need some divine help. Unfortunately, most of us, myself included, seldom think that evil is big enough to bother God about, and that we should save the delivering for something of major proportions.

It takes the Christmas season for me to realize it’s not the big evils of this world that drag me down – it’s the little, niggling ones, the ones I’m sure I can handle myself. According to Webster’s Dictionary, evil is anything that causes discomfort or repulsion (along with a lot of other definitions that fit more closely to how I’d always defined ‘evil’).

Playing games such as, “I’m going to give you an expensive present and make you feel guilty or beholden,” and “I’m leaving you off the party list because I want to invite some interesting people and you wouldn’t fit in with them,” and “We’re not going to your family’s place for Christmas because I can’t stand your sister,” and “I’m just putting everything on the credit card and I’ll worry about it next year,” and “I’ll play the kitchen martyr and make everyone feel sorry for me,” and “I’m not giving you a gift this year because you gave me a cheap little gift last year”….all these games cause me discomfort and repulsion.

There is a litany that has the right idea about the little evils all around us. “From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness, Good Lord, deliver us.”

That pretty much covers the whole gamut of evil that seems to afflict me and a lot of other people at Christmas time. I don’t know what it is about this season that brings out not only the best in us, but the worst in us, too. Perhaps it is Old Dirty Face himself feeling the pinch of Christian love and doing his utmost to stamp it out. Whatever the reason, now is the time to pray for deliverance from evil – into love.

 

MEDITATION: Good Lord, deliver me from all the little evils that plague me and take away my peace. “To strengthen such as do stand; to encourage the faint-hearted; to raise up those who fall; and finally, to beat down Satan under our feet, we beseech thee, Good Lord.” Amen.

 

 

I Seek the Word

December 13

I SEEK THE WORD

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.” John 1:1

 

I spent a good part of my working life conducting seminars and workshops. One of those was a communications seminar. It always surprised and amazed the participants to learn how we communicate with each other, face to face.

I’d start by drawing a large circle which represented 100% of what we wished to communicate – the whole message. Then I divided it like a pie into three pieces and labelled the pieces Verbal, Vocal and Visual. These are the three components of how we communicate a message, I’d explain.

Then I’d pose the question. “What portion of the whole message is communicated by each of the three components?” The guesses ranged from 10 to 90% in each category. Then, I’d write in the correct percentages on the pie shapes. Verbal: 7%. Vocal: 38%. Visual: 55%. The audience was always stunned by the low figure for the verbal component of our communication with each other.

When I consider how carefully I choose my words, search for just the right phrase, or try hard not to get off track, it seems like a useless exercise if only 7% of communication is actually in the words themselves (which, by the way, explains how people speaking two different languages can still communicate with each other).

It may also explain by my witness to Jesus is so ineffective. My mouth knows the right words to speak, but my actions often don’t back them up.

During the Christmas season, I find myself in a position where I know I should be speaking the word that reminds us of the reasons for the season. It’s easy to do at my church group, in Sunday School, at the choir luncheon. After all, they expect to have a little ‘religious’ component in the activity. But, at the office Christmas party, my daughter’s dance recital, the luncheon with the book club, it all becomes a lot more difficult.

I choose my words carefully, being sure not to offend or condemn or protest. But if that is all I do, then 93% of the message remains un-communicated.

Jesus as the Word in my life communicates his message of love 100%. His face, his voice, his actions, all were congruent with his words as he walked on earth. Someone once lightly called him, “The Great Communicator”.  How right they were!

 

MEDITATION: Dear Lord Jesus, help me to express your love in not just words, but in every aspect of my being. Make me so genuine in my communications with others that they will see in me a vision of you. Amen.

I Seek the Leader

December 12

I SEEK THE LEADER

“Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader

and commander for the peoples.” Isaiah 55:4

 

There was a time when children looked to their parents, their teachers, even to older brothers and sisters for guidance and role models. Not anymore. Today, the big black screen in the living room teaches them all they need to know.

I’ve always struggled against television. Deep inside, I’ve longed to cancel the cable, pull the plug and throw the darn thing out.  But then, what would I watch on those evenings when even reading a book is too much effort, when all I want is a mindless TV program, to “veg out” and relax? I’ve rationalized the existence of the television by telling myself that my children only watch wholesome programs – but let’s face it: there’s nothing wholesome in the mayhem and chaos of a Saturday morning cartoon. But what about the “good” programs, the educational programs, the learning programs, the fun programs? Should they all go, too?

So the television stays with us and has become the educator, the expert, the proponent, the last word on all that is IN.

IN is what my children want to have. IN is everything most parents don’t want their children to have. IN is even worse at Christmastime.

There is no way to avoid the blatant messages of “Be like everyone else,” “Follow the leader,” “Be IN”. Worse, my children don’t even want to hear about being different. If everyone else in the civilized world has a Video 2000 Double-Whatsit Ultra Sound Thingy, they must have one too! My little television followers make the most deeply brain-washed cult follower seem wildly independent by comparison to their blind unswerving desire to have just what everyone else is having for Christmas.

Sadly, we parents get sucked in, and everyone is familiar with the frantic parent making the rounds of every store in town, desperate to find the Video 2000 Double-Whatsit Sound Thingy before Christmas morning.

It isn’t any easier for me to live in this world while trying to follow my leader, Jesus Christ. I also hear the siren calls of chasing dollars and climbing ladders, of having more than the next person and looking out for Number One. Only if I stop to listen do I hear the still, small voice reminding me to “love one another”. I know if I listen to my Leader, I run the risk of not being IN. I think I can handle that.

 

MEDITATION: O God, speak to me often during this Advent season. Remind me that your way is not the way of this world. As I wait for the coming of your son to Bethlehem, help me ignore the blandishments of this world. Instill in me a desire to follow you and only you. Amen

I Seek the King of Kings

December 11

I SEEK THE KING OF KINGS

“And this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed

and only sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” 1 Timothy 6:15

 

At Christmas time, there is only one king sitting on his throne in our hallowed halls – Santa Claus seated in splendor in the local shopping mall. Each year, the re-created Throne Room grows more and more lavish. The throne is now gilded and piled high with red velvet cushions, the pathways are strewn with sparkling silver dust and tiny stars, twinkling lights and glittering icicles festoon the marble arches. It is a wondrous sight. And in the midst of it all, surrounded by his servant elves and his adoring subjects, Santa Claus, red-suited, well-fed, rosy-cheeked and jolly, offers candy and a smile to every small child who worships on his knee, promising each one more goodies to come on Christmas morning.

How can a child understand that this wonderful personage is not the King of kings? When they stand in awe before the throne of the great one himself, how can they begin to comprehend that the birthday celebration called Christmas is for a small baby, born in a barn? How do you explain that this king is an imposter when they can see the evidence of his wealth, power and riches right before their eyes? How can he possibly be less important than the baby of Bethlehem?

This is the paradox of Christmas. We celebrate the birth of the King of kings, yet we give him no trappings of power, no symbols of state, no mighty throne or golden chambers. In fact, in the world of commercial Christmas, he is never mentioned.

Instead, we find ourselves caught up in the getting and doing and buying and rushing that is all part of Christmas. We stand before the glittering throne and tell our children, “You must be very good or Santa Claus won’t bring you anything this year.”

Instead, I want to stand before the manger. I want to confess that I haven’t been very good. That I have stumbled and fallen and lost my way. I want to receive the forgiveness that only the King of kings can give me. This is one gift of that the red-suited king of this world’s Christmas can never offer.

 

MEDITATION: Lord, have I been worshipping at the wrong throne? Forgive me when I get caught up in worldly matters and forget who is the King of kings. Lead me to the manger. Bless me with your grace. Amen.