A collection of past contributions…
Image courtesy of Joe LeFevre, www.joelefevrephoto.com
Work sometimes gets in the way of life. When we are called on to work the night shift either because the shift rotation has fallen out that way, or because someone with seniority over us has dibs on Christmas Eve time off, here we are, forced to be away from our family again. This doesn’t seem right. Sometimes the extra pay isn’t worth it. Besides, our work conditions aren’t very healthy. It gets pretty cold at night at work sometimes.
Yet someone has to watch the sheep. At least that’s what we’re told. The sheep. Always the sheep. Like sheep are more important than we are! These sheep are meant for slaughter anyway. Well, maybe they are kind of important. After all, they are the ones that will be used for the Temple sacrifices. Even for the Day of Atonement celebration. Someday a Deliverer will come and every day will be a Day of Atonement – a day when the Messiah, Immanuel, will have His rightful place over all of this.
I wonder what the other shepherds are thinking? It’s so quiet tonight. The stars are beautiful. God made them, I know. But sometimes God seems so far away just like those stars. Sometimes I just wish He would come close.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
I was reminded again, as I listened to a radio program about special Christmas memories, that profound sadness accompanies the Christmas holidays for many people. That’s understandable. Losses of loved ones around that season would naturally taint the celebrations as can the loneliness of realizing anew the sad reality of people missing that have been so much a part of our lives in the past. Christmas can be very hard.
We should be sensitive to that among those we know who may be suffering this way. Perhaps we can offer some loving context in sharing our Christmases with the sad and lonely. Joining us in family dinners, especially if children are present, can brighten otherwise dreary days and provide opportunity for them to direct their attention outwardly during this bright season. “Adopting” a grandparent for some special local holiday entertainment can also help them to see past their sorrow and to embrace a future with expanded horizons.
We expect immature children (or immature adults) to identify their most memorable Christmas as the time they got some sort of “stuff’, a big screen TV for their bedroom, a drone, or some latest electronic game. While marketers love that mentality, any thinking or feeling person sees beyond that fluff. Christmas, in the original “Immanuel” – “God-with-us” form, always has been about relationships. It’s about God’s relationship with us and about our resulting relationships with each other. The real “stuff” of Christmas is, of course, John 3:16, which many know by heart: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The bottom line is God’s inclusive love for us and about His gift. We can keep in touch with Christmas by sharing that inclusive love in the name of Jesus, by finding someone who needs some love this season and including them in our lives.
Some people see things only in black and white. Forget the color or the tints and hues that make up the true picture of reality. “My mind is made up,” they may say, “don’t confuse me with the facts.”
But then others refuse any white or black at all in their worldview. Everything is subjective, dependent on their personal definition of reality. After all, don’t we all see color differently? For them, any defining truths are refused. For them as well, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts”.
An accurate view of reality includes both perspectives. By analogy, when we wear polarizing sunglasses less visual information is received by our eyes, but the information that is allowed through helps us see a better, more detailed view. Black and white photography is like that. It takes us back to the basics of composition and detail, allowing us to see more than meets the initial subjective eye. This is true for both portrait and landscape photography.
An accurate view of God’s revelation to us in the Bible is like that too. The basics of composition and detail are found in who God is, His holiness, justice, goodness and lovingkindness to us (among many other “defining details”). Jesus was black and white about who He was. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6), and “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). But the colorful outworking of salvation can be found in such passages as Philippians 2:13, “…it is God who is at work in you to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Starting with the black and white, we can better discern the details of God’s dynamic lifelong interaction with us – the true color of our lives.
Image courtesy of Daniel Helms