Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This Little Light of Mine

Christmas lights covering broken shingles and graffiti, make our neighborhood sparkle with beauty when the sun goes down. A little light in the darkness can make anything gleam with hope. 

Jesus did come. He was born in a broken neighborhood, in the midst of political turmoil. He brought hope to a world in desperate need of it. 

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

We rejoice because now our brokenness can be filled with his life giving light. 

This Christmas, let your light shine in the darkness. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Every Good Gift

Tis' the season for gifts! We are all busy about our plans and schemes, working out the best gifts for those we love!

 I love Christmas. In fact it doesn't take much to put me in the Christmas spirit. A couple classic Christmas songs and some hot cocoa fill me right up with Christmas cheer.

But the truth is, Christmas is a complicated time, even for me. My parents are divorced. We live in a neighborhood filled with needs, and homes without Christmas trees. We struggle, trying to figure out the best way to communicate love through the gifts we give. 

We are often approached by generous people who want to lavish the kids in our neighborhood with expensive gifts. We really have to think through what these gifts would mean for our community. Will they communicate Christ's love from a stranger or would they breed jealousy, unrest, and division for the families we love. These are not easy waters to navigate.

As tough and as complicated as that may seem, I have found that recognizing the gifts we already have is a much harder task.

God has given his children so many good gifts. It takes time and intentional contemplation to realize them all. In this advent season, I find it appropriate to make space in my busy Christmas scheming and planning to do just that.

Thomas Merton, a mentor to many activists in the Catholic peace movement said, "The monk does not come to the monastery to 'get' something which the ordinary Christian cannot have. On the contrary, he comes there to realize and to appreciate all that any good Christian already has. He comes to live his Christian life, and thus to appreciate to the full his heritage as a son of God. He comes in order to see and understand that he already posses everything." 

What if Oscar, Tito, Gabriella, Sammy, Jasmine, and all the kids in the after school program could recognize all they have as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father? 

I barely even recognize this is my own life, how then can I communicate it to them. As I write this I feel ashamed and convicted. But Gods gifts to us include forgiveness and mercy. So I am humbled by his gracious love for me even in my forgetfulness. 

God made it clear to us in scripture that our desire to give good gifts is a part of us that bares his image. He is the master giver of good gifts!

"If you, then, being evil, are able to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who make requests to him?" Matthew 7:11

I admit I often forget to ask him for good things. And yet, he is so ready and eager to give them to me.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

What if this Christmas we took time to give God the credit for all the good things in our life. I know when I give someone I love a really good gift, my favorite part is watching them open it! You know when they look at you and say "thank you" like they really mean it?

I think for many of us, we haven't even opened up the gifts God has set before us, much less recognized them and given him credit!

I have come to realize that even the work God has given me to do is a gift! He has made and equipped me for a certain task and purpose in his kingdom. And although yours might be different then mine, he has done the same for you.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work." 1 Corinthians 12-4-6

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:10-11

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24

For some, Christmas may be a time that brings up old wounds and new frustrations with religion and the church. You may be guilted into warming a pew or attending a service out of respect for family or loved ones. 

I recently had a conversation with Laura, a high school graduate and now college student, from our neighborhood, about religion. She believes in God and Jesus, and is eager to learn all she can from scripture, but the church and religion bring up many undesirable connections for her. I could relate.  But I don't want her to miss out on all the gifts God has for her through his church. So I explained that people throughout history and even today use religion and the church for both evil and good. But don't throw it out! It is good to think critically about the way in which our faith is worked out in community, to evaluate our motives and religious practices, but to abandon it completely would be to leave a valuable gift from God unopened.

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather,speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:11-16

God has given us each other, to use our gifts in a community of faith, to be the church. 

This Christmas, may we see the many unopened gifts God has lavished upon us, perfect gifts that bring life, hope and true joy. May we give him the credit, so others begin to see what they might not recognize for themselves.

May we accept God's gift of his son, Jesus Christ, and look to him and say "thank you" like we mean it. 

       Ian's soccer team from last Christmas. 

                 Picture from last years Christmas Party.

You can make a year-end donation or donate to this years Christmas Party fund by clicking the Donate button below. 

Merry Christmas,