“Christmas Work”

January 19th

“When the song of the angels is stilled.
When the star in the sky is gone.
When the kings and the shepherds have found their way home.
The work of Christmas is begun!”
These lines from Jim Strathdee’s song, “I Am The Light Of The World” rang out in my mind this morning. Well, maybe they were a little bit different:
“When radios stop blaring Christmas tunes
When the star on the tree is packed up
When the Manger and the stocks are all packed away
The work of Christmas is begun”
Yes, today all but the exterior Christmas lights frozen to the porch is packed and stored and ready for next years decorating extravaganza. And, as Jim Strathdee’s song reminds us, the work has begun. What God set into place through Jesus is set into action through us. The past celebration of His life is constantly revisited in the present revelation of Jesus alive and well and working through us.
What does that look like? Here are the remaining verses to “I Am The Light Of The World”
“To find the lost and lonely one,
To heal that broken soul with love,
To feed the hungry children with warmth and good food,
To feel the earth below the sky above!”
“To free the prisoner from his chains,
To make the powerful care,
To rebuild the nations with strength and goodwill,
To call a man your brother everywhere.”
To bring hope to every task you do,
To dance at a baby’s new birth,
To make music in an old man’s heart,
And sing to the colours of the earth!”
This the work of Christmas, in the middle of January, as I pen these words. In a blustery March when the weather can’t decide what it’s doing. During the invigorating rains of Spring or soul-warming glory of summer. We live because Jesus lived. We love because Jesus loved. We work because He lives and loves through us every moment of our lives.

“COOL!”

January 12th
“COOL!”
It was the coolest thing, ever! OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that exciting, but I thought it was a great idea at the time. Nothing world shaking, just a friend’s phone that not only rang and vibrated when a call came in, but it flashed as well! How can you go wrong with THREE! different ways for your device to let you know what was happening? I wanted in! I had to have it! And within a few moments my friend had programmed my phone to flash whenever a phone call or a message came in. COOL!!!!!!!!!
Day 2: COOL!
Day 3: Cool.
Day 4: cool…
Day 5: cool?
Day 6: Turned off.
Change is good. New ideas are great. But sometimes, what seems cool or exciting or interesting at first glance isn’t nearly as thrilling as it appeared to be at first blush.
That’s OK.
It’s a mighty big world out there. God has given us the kind of creativity that knows no limits and we use it to its maximum potential. On top of that, God has made us unique in both our abilities and our tastes, so we we have lots to choose from when it comes to new ideas. Some, like having a light flash when someone is texting you might appear frivolous, but to hearing-impaired folks, they’re a great idea when receiving messages. It all depends on one’s needs and situation.
Trying that option on my phone might not seem like an earth-shaking decision but it points to the larger reality of trying new things or changing course. Not everything works out. What seems like a great idea in theory might not be such a wonderful thing when put into practice. When that poor choice makes itself known there is no shame in admitting it and moving on. It might not be easy. There may be consequences. Even with careful thought, planning and prayer, doing a new thing may not end up being the right thing. But there is nothing worse than not trying something new or different.
Who knows? Maybe trying something different might help us appreciate what we have all the more, or perhaps point to an even better idea that does work out in the end. One thing is for sure: if you don’t try something different you will never know for sure whether or not it was the coolest thing ever.

“Instants”

January 5th
“Instants”
In an instant, in less than the blink of an eye, a new year has begun. 2019 is gone, long live 2020. Of course, what happened in a flash took 365 days to arrange. Or, rather, it took 940 million kilometres, since a year is really measured how long it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. It just so happens that as it makes its orbit, it also rotates around its own axis, which gives us 365 nights and days from the beginning to the end of its journey.
Well, sort of 365 days and nights. The rate at which the earth rotates isn’t perfectly matched to the time it takes to go around the sun. It actually travels for another 6 hours or so, one-quarter of a day, so every four years we have to take up the slack and add one more day to our calendar.
Of course, we don’t notice this cosmic dance of earth travelling around the sun, spinning all the way. Well, we notice the spin, since it give us the slow progress from light to dark and back, but we don’t really feel the motion of the earth itself, either as it orbits or rotates. So, we have this majestic, massive thing happening around us, one that has happened for millions of years and will continue happening for millions more, and once a year we mark the instant that the second hand of the clock takes us from last year to next year.
We give that instant a whole lot of weight. We see going from one year to the next as the end to what has gone before and as the beginning of what is yet to come. Some folks use the occasion as a way to change something in their lives. They resolve to lose weight, forgive past slights, or to try a new hobby. Some folks use the occasion to look back at the past year and choose the best, worst, funniest or strangest things that happened. In an instant, we condense 365 days into memories and try to figure out what will happen for the next 365.
The instant we mark the new year is only one of many. A life is made up of instants beyond counting. Sometimes we notice them, as with a sudden life changing experience. Sometimes we don’t notice them at all, and it’s only after a period of slow growth that we realize how many instants have passed and how far we’ve travelled. Sometimes instants spread out over time, as friends or family we see only infrequently pop back into our lives momentarily although it seems like no time has passed since we last saw them.
We mark the instant we go from one year to the next with great celebration. Yet that is only one instant in lives that are made up of only a limited number of instants and each and every one of them matters; each one moves us forward, or holds us back, changes us or marks a period where nothing needs to change. As the new year celebration fades from memory and 2020 becomes old news, take an instant now and then to celebrate and give thanks for every God-given instant you have been granted.

“The Written Word”

December 29th

The mighty King had no idea what the words on the wall said. God’s hand had appeared. That he knew. God’s hand wrote four words on the way. He knew that as well. The words mattered. He got that. But what the words actually said, what message they conveyed, was beyond him. As mighty as he was, the king could not decipher those God-written words. And so the mighty King had to have them interpreted. Only a prophet of God, only the wise and faithful prophet,or Daniel, to whom the king have given the name Belteshazzar, could read what God had written.
Sometimes we have a hard time understanding things because, like the mighty King, we don’t know the words for ourselves and we need an interpreter. Sometimes we can’t decipher things because the words might be known to us, but they aren’t written so clearly. They’re messy and untidy and the page is filled with smudges and things crossed out.
That’s what happens when I try to write something out by hand. If you ever received a hand-written note from me, you’ll be lucky to make sense of it. I’ve never had a steady hand. My style has never been smooth and clean. Now, after a couple of injuries to my fingers, things have not improved. It’s hard to hold a pen properly and I get tired easily. As a result, I don’t hand-write personal notes any more. It’s too embarrassing, and it’s just not a happy experience for me to hand over anything less than my best.
God clearly liked the written word. God wrote an important note to a mighty King. God carved the law into stone. God even inspired Prophets, writers and kings to record the lessons, histories, laws, wisdom and lyrics we find in the Bible. But God also gave us the Word made flesh and spoken with living breath in Jesus Christ.
Jesus speaks what’s on God’s heart in a way we can all understand. Jesus lives out God’s written word, revealing the heart and soul of Scripture’s meaning. And so I print out my personal notes, because it’s not the medium that counts as much as the content. I’m not comfortable writing things by hand as the result is nothing like what my heart is expressing. If you need special training or a prophet to intervene, my personal hand-written note doesn’t really have much to say. But if I can share my heart with you clearly by taking advantage of modern, helpful, technology, then that’s the route I take. It’s the best I can do in order to share the best of who and what I am.

“Known”

December 22nd

I am always amazed at a teacher’s ability to remember her student’s names. Within a day, she has mastered each face and can call every boy or girl by their appropriate moniker. What’s even more amazing is how a teacher can remember their charges names years after they have both left the classroom. It seems that the best teachers can remember what to call every child they ever taught no matter how much time has passed since they last saw each other.
But, for a select few educators, it gets even better. A select few teachers not only can remember their students names, but details of what their students were like and where their strengths and weakenesses lay. Teachers like this don’t just know their students by name; they know their students as unique, individual people.
We are told that God knows each and every one of us down to our last hair. Or, maybe, hair follicle, for those who sport magnificent bald heads. These are reassuring words that remind us our Creator is not a far away, detached ruler, but a loving, caring parent who is attentive to our every need and aware of our strength and weaknesses down to the last detail. It is good to believe that God knows us so intimately.
All doubt that God knows us so completely and loves us so much was dispelled when Jesus entered the scene. Jesus entered the scene as a child, the very child of God. Jesus started out life as any one of us does. Jesus grew and matured as any one of us did. Jesus encountered teachers that knew his name and character and helped him develop into who He was meant to be.
Growing, maturing and even dying as we did, we can be sure that Jesus knew everything that it meant to be human. As the child of God, as being the physical expression of our Creator who is pure Spirit, Jesus conveyed every feeling and sensation of being to His Creator. Any doubt that God not only knows us but understands us as well is dispelled knowing that through Jesus, our Creator experienced our full humanity in all its imperfect glory.
Knowing that God knows us so well and yet still loves us perfectly is an amazing, reassuring thought. To God, we are not simply names in a dusty old book, but beloved children, fully known, appreciated and understood for exactly who we are.

“Dime-quick”

December 15th

“Turn on a dime” is a phrase often used by car people to describe a vehicle that is nimble and manoeuvrable. Given the size of that particular denomination of coin, it’s pretty much impossible in real life, but it is a good way of describing a car that handles well and responds to the driver’s every command.
There’s a wee problem with that kind of handling, however. While it might be great for a car to be able to turn so quickly, it ain’t so great for the occupants. Whether it’s steering, stopping, going or hitting a bump, fast changes in a vehicle can be very uncomfortable, or even dangerous, for the folks riding along.
Blame Sir Isaac Newton and his thoughts on moving and resting bodies for that. A car might change directly quickly, but inertia, that is, an object’s desire to not change direction (or speed) quickly and just stay put means that its riders and cargo might be in for an interesting moment. If you’ve ever ended up wearing a coffee after an emergency stop, or wearing your fellow passenger’s coffee during a very fast turn, you know what I mean. A car might be able to turn on a dime, but the people and stuff within would rather just stay where they are, thank-you very much.
Life has a way of throwing us into a spin. Our situations can turn on a dime and what was seems to disappear or to be forever different quickly and sometimes unpredictably. Just like passengers in car, we can’t always change as quickly as life does. New things take time to get used to. Adapting is difficult. On top of having to change, all too often it’s hard to let things go. We want to stay put. We want things to be as they always were. We want to hold on to what we were used to.
A car has seatbelts, padded surfaces and grab handles to help us survive the dime-quick turns. Our own bodies flex and move in order to lessen the blow and to compensate for inertia. There are a number of safety and comfort systems that allow us to survive the quick turns or the sudden stops and to go along with them until we reach our final destination.
Life provides us with its own safety and support systems so that we can make it through and even thrive when it takes a dime-quick turn. Friends, family and community support us and help ease the blow. Our own inner-strength and adaptability allows us to change as required. Above all, our Faith allows God to work through those around us and with us to heal and recover so that we might not only get used to our new direction, but to grow and thrive as well. Life might throw us dime-quick changes, but when we trust God’s steady, unchanging love, we can deal with whatever might come.

“A Simple Sequence”

December 8th

Jesus told His disciples that He kept His Father’s commands so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. He then told them that His command is to “Love each other as I have loved you”. It’s a curious, significant teaching. Jesus obeys God. He obeys God so that His disciples would know His joy and that their joy would be absolute. Jesus then calls them to love one another as He has loved them.
Obedience. Joy. Obedience. Jesus, it seems, taught his followers a sequence of dependency. God depends on Jesus to obey. The disciples’ joy depends on Jesus’ joy. Jesus depends on them to obey. One move follows the other until it returns to the beginning. We do not know what God commanded Jesus, but we do know that Jesus commanded His followers to love one another. Could that have been God’s command to Jesus?
If Jesus obeyed God’s command, and that command was to love others as God loved Him, which led to Jesus filling His followers with joy, which in turn leads to Jesus’ command to love, can we rewrite the sequence more simply? When we do so it looks like this: Love. Find Joy. Share Joy. Love.
These sequence of thoughts about Jesus’ teaching were inspired by a recent Pastoral visit to an ill member of my congregation. For the first time after months of little progress, there was marked improvement. It was a startling change from just a week ago. I was overjoyed at the difference, not because of how much better my parishioner was, but because he seemed, for the first time in a long time, genuinely joyful. There was a twinkle in his eye. He smiled. And it was his joy that made my joy complete. I wasn’t happy for him. I was happy through him. It was a simple sequence: his joy completed my joy.
That simple sequence is part of that larger sequence Jesus taught. Love. Find Joy. Share Joy. Love. It is through Christ-obeying love that I am privileged to serve in Ministry. My congregation empowers me and equips me through their obedience to Jesus’ command to love. My humble attempts at Christ-obeying love lead me to hospital rooms where I so often receive much more than I bring. In that hospital room, a visit inspired by Jesus’ love, there was great joy. It was a very simple sequence for which I am truly thankful.
When we obey Jesus and love one another as we have been loved, joy follows naturally. This joy is a result of Jesus loving us. It is a product of our loving others. It is a response to being loved. And it can be shared, as our joy impacts others, and their joy completes ours. When we understand that the joy we have given or received is because we have loved because Jesus first loved us, then joy takes us back to love. It is a simple sequence. Love leads to joy. Loy leads to love, a never ending sequence that starts when we obey Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us.