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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Generosity and Christ

This past Sunday I was really touched by a simple and yet beautiful act of generosity. A woman at church whom I admire for acting on her faith instead of just talking about it shared with me how she had a friend whose boy was struggling with some health issues and wished for a tablet. As a family, they are going through a hard time, so this woman went on the web, set up an account people could donate to and asked all her Face book friends to think about helping out. Within hours the donations poured in from across the country and more than enough money came in to buy one of the best tablets available.
There is something about this time of year that brings out both the best and the worst in us. We've made Christmas out to be this orgy of shopping with Black Friday and Boxing Day on either side of Christmas encouraging all this, and yet this is also the time of year that stories of generosity and compassion always  come out about people who are struggling and receive these acts of hope and grace from people who slow down to see and hear their stories. These moments bring tears, though I always try to hide them.
These are sacred moments, moments where we reconnect with the Spirit of God and our hearts get softened. Christmas, the time in the year we remember the gift of God, Jesus, "God with us," and it stirs something in us that needs to reach out and connect with someone else just as God reached out by becoming human and connected with us. Why else are there all these cheesy sentimental movies that only come out at this time of the year, movies that we never admit to watching, but secretly enjoy because they touch something deep inside us, a need to care and show it.
I encourage you this Christmas season to act on these feelings of wanting to connect with someone else in a spirit of generosity, whether it's being a secret Santa and quietly helping out someone who has a need, or openly reaching out to give to a charity that helps make our community a better place to live, or even better, by offering an afternoon or couple of hours to help someone out. May the love of Jesus soften your heart and bless you this Christmas season

Friday, 2 December 2011

Advent: getting ready!

We're a week past Black Friday, an event that is even creeping into Canada now, and I have to confess that as I look ahead to Christmas, I'm not ready. It's not that everything around me isn't reminding me to get ready; the radio is filled with Christmas songs and carols, some of my neighbours have their Christmas trees up already and the mall parking lots are packed every time I drive by. I'm reminded that the longer I wait, the longer the line ups are going to be when I finally get around to the shopping I need to do.
Church services are filled with Christmas songs and we're reflecting on Biblical songs pointing ahead to Jesus in our sermons leading up to Christmas, yet I'm finding that even with all this going on around me, I haven't even begun to get ready yet for Christmas. The "ready" I'm talking about here is being "heart ready," moving away from the cultural Christmas and moving towards the church Christmas, the Christ centred celebration. I know I should always be Jesus focused, eyes and heart looking always to Jesus, but at this time of year I actually find this to be really difficult.
Part of it is the time of year with more darkness than light and the dullness of the weather weighing on the soul, part of it is the pressure of trying to make Advent services extra special for any visitors that might drop by, the financial pressure of giving gifts and giving extra to the church, attending the extra programs and events that go with the Christmas season (all of which I look forward to because of the people the are associated with), and the simple tiredness of being cheerful and happy because that's what's expected.
This week I began to read through the Gospels again, something I do every December, immersing myself into the Biblical story of Jesus' coming, life and even his death because it all leads to the resurrection and Jesus' return to his father's side again. It's my way of reminding myself of who I am as I reflect on who Jesus is. As I move closer to Christmas, the Gospel stories do their thing in my heart, preparing me, getting me ready for Christmas.
If you are finding that you're not ready for Christmas yet, try turning to the Gospels and letting their stories get you "heart" ready. There will always be too many things to do, too many places to go and too many people to see at this time of year, yet you can make it through with calmness and peace through the stories about the reason for the season.