I sat at the breakfast table this morning by myself, thinking over my grits, orange and coffee. I was soaking in the Christmas tree, the gifts, the Christmas city on the mantle, the manger scene that we put up every year on the coffee table. The manger scene is what really got me thinking. Manger scenes are always so static and everyone is always doing the same thing, sitting in awe of baby Jesus. I think that maybe, it looked a little more like this: [pardon my art skills, friends.]
I don't mean to suggest that the event is any less holy than it has been portrayed in years past, I just think, shouldn't holy moments inspire the most emotion, or motion? When people come in contact with the holiness of God in the Bible, we see them removing shoes, covering their faces or falling on them, even dying. I know it's for the sake of the pictures, but I just don't think that when people encountered Jesus, even as a baby, it inspired them to have a seat.
Luke 2 says, "So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
[I have bolded all the action words, for your reading pleasure.] Even Mary, who might have been quietly sitting, had an active mind, full of wondering.
Matthew 2 gives us the account of the wise men saying, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."
Jesus inspires action and emotion once again. May Jesus inspire action and emotion in your heart this Christmas. May Christmas not be dull and the same, but so fresh and life giving.
currently listening to: Dean Martin, Christmas with Dino currently baking: pecan pie
Today I went with Mom and her guitar students to the nursing home. The little old ladies bobbed their heads and sang along as we attempted to play some music. A nursing home is a great place to take anyone learning to play an instrument or wanting practice in performance, because even if you don't sound stellar, the residents love it. My favorite moment was when we didn't have the chords to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", the residents began to sing it without us.
When my family first moved to North Carolina, Mom started bringing us to the nursing home. We adopted a grandma, someone who had no one to visit them, someone who needed friends to visit. We didn't have any family here so Mom decided that it would be a good idea, I guess. The first grandma that we had was "Grandma Johnson" and the second one was "Grandma Smith". I always have had this terrible sinking feeling when I go to the nursing home. I just get so sad when I see how people can become, if that makes sense. And I feel so sad that they are just left there, instead of cared for and treasured in their old age. I am certain that there are reasons for people to be there, and I am certain that their being there can't always be avoided. We played for them, accepted requests and when it was done, I gathered my guts together and went out to talk to the residents. I probably hugged 15 little old ladies. 15 treasures. 15 women who have seen and done incredible things, and now are just sitting and waiting to die. One lady held my hand forever. She was so tiny and precious. Another lady, named Miss Dorothy was very excited to tell me all about what she'd gotten for Christmas. She told me that she was from Boston and that she was hoping it would snow for Christmas here, just like it did up there. She told me that her husband of 'I forget how many years, but I should be so lucky' died last year, and she was lonely. And then I had to leave. I always tear up when I leave. But I blinked my tears away so I could smile my biggest at the residents sitting by the door. That's the way it always is. My heart breaks as I leave. Earlier I wrote about caring for widows. I'd always begrudged going to the nursing home because I know the emotional distress it will cause me, but today it took on a different light. It was no less difficult, no less causing me to stare death in the face, no less smelly and full of strange sounds, but today I realized that it is something that Jesus would have done. Jesus would have walked into that nursing home with a big smile on his face and he would have held those little old people's hands, listened to their words and treasured them.
currently listening to: The Cafe Hotel Presents Winter Songs
I just got done with the dentist and I think that I've decided that while they are working on my mouth, I am more conscious of the fact that they are partially dissecting my mouth then the fact that they are cleaning my teeth. And if they think that free floss changes that, they are sadly mistaken. Although as a college student, I do appreciate the gesture of the giving of free goods.
I'm in the warm corner of a coffee shop, namely Starbucks, since I'm in Raleigh, listening to the conversations melting together around me. Two women are catching up on their families, two men are talking about ideas and poetry and their favorite columns in the New York Times (if I could pick a conversation to join, this would be it.), Two women are talking about church. They have with them a little girl who is coloring and who every now and then looks up from her organic apple juice box to stare at me. I smile back. She hasn't smiled at me yet though. This is why I love coffee shops: connection without knowing anyone in here but the barista. This brings me to what I have just finished reading- Jesus wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell. He writes of redemption, community and service. He writes about a plot. A plot that you might know well, where over and over God redeems his people. And over and over, his people forget. We, as Americans, forget the marginalized- just like the Israelites. More terrible than that, I settle into my Christianity, forgetting the price paid for my soul, and I forget that I have been blessed to be a blessing.
Rob Bell says, "If we have any resources, any power, any voice, any influence, any energy, we must convert them into blessing for those who have no power, no voice, no influence."
God is a God who hears. From the Israelite slaves in Egypt, to the widows and orphans and refugees. When we open our hearts and ears to the hurt around us, we are acting as God would.
Rob Bell calls Christians "a living Eucharist,allowing [their] body to be broken, and [their] blood to be poured out for the healing of the world." He calls the church to "feel what others feel, to suffer what they suffer, to rejoice when they rejoice. To say 'me too'." But so often the church does not live this way. Bell says "the church must cling to her memory of exodus, because if that memory is forgotten, the church may forget the poor, and if the poor are forgotten, the church may forget what it was like to be enslaved and that would be forgetting the grace of God. And that would be forgetting who we are."
I asked God to remind me last night of the beauty of Christmas, of its purpose.
Christmas occurred because once, a very long time ago, people decided that their ultimate worth was found outside God. They decided that God was not good or trust-worthy, and that they could do things better on their own. They sought life elsewhere. And for some, crazy reason, "it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense. (C.S Lewis)" So God sent his son. Because he so loved us. Because through giving his son, we are able to have faith and we are able to have eternal life. Christmas is so much deeper than a cute baby in a cold stable. It is so much more meaningful than a fat man in a red, fir trimmed outfit miraculously sliding down the chimney that you may or may not have.
I guess I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to grab hold of God's heart for the world, for God's heart for the world, and figure out how you can join him where his heart is beating.
Merry Christmas; rejoice in the wonderful heart that God has for you, and the world.
Currently listening to: my free Starbucks download of the week, Stuck to you; Nikka Costa. She will be replaced with Sufjan Stevens' Christmas album. Currently drinking: a salted, caramel hot chocolate Currently eating: pumpkin loaf Current scarf: light blue and very shed-y, but a nice contrast to my dark jacket.
One of the most delightful things about Christmas time is the anticipation. I wonder if God felt how we do, right before Jesus was about to be born. We run around, finding perfect gifts, smiling as we think about the recipient opening our gift. I wonder if God watched everything falling into place and thought, "Just wait til they see this!" Then we didn't get it, we missed what the entire world had been anticipating. I'm reminded of how we are anticipating the return of Jesus, and the day when we can finally go to Heaven and see God face to face. It really is a beautiful season of waiting.
I've been re-reading The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis. It really is a book that makes you think. Here's an excerpt where they are talking about Heaven and the one ghost says that he would want to go to Heaven if he is "guaranteed a wider sphere of influence" and the spirit replies, "I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God."
I love that, and I long for it.
currently listening to: Bonnie Prince Billy, Cursed Sleep
I was sitting here in the InterVarsity office pouring over my notes for my final exam at 2, when a man who does maintenance for the school came and stopped in front of the office and looked at me. I smiled and he asked me if this was InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I said, yes, that it was. He proceeded to pull out ten dollars from his pocket and he handed it to me telling me that it was for the "Orphan" shirts. I told him that we didn't have any shirts in the office, but we still have them because we haven't sold them all. We'd done the orphan campaign last fall to raise awareness of all of the children in sub-Saharan Africa who were orphaned by aids. He shook his head, and said, "It's just to help cover them." I thanked him and told him it would get to the right person and then he walked away and was gone, just like that.
I sat here, tearing up a little, not really knowing why, wondering why God would have that happen. It was too random to just be random. I spent the entire weekend working on school work. Today I had a research paper due, a final exam and a unit plan due. I have a Critical Performance this week and I have to prepare for that. I also have a case study and a Multi-genre research paper due on Thursday. I was just feeling very overwhelmed by everything, and I am worrying about my GPA because if I don't get excellent grades, I won't be able to student teach and that is a lot of pressure. I also am waiting for financial aid to work itself out or I won't be going to school next semester anyways. I think that it is God's way of reminding me that I am not forgotten. That he knows where my heart is, that I am worrying, and that he has thing under control. He even can still pay off shirts from last fall that are seemingly forgotten by the rest of campus. He can have a stranger walk up and give you ten dollars, even though that stranger has no idea you'll actually give it to the right person. He orchestrates life and he is in control of everything.
God is so strange, and his ways aren't mine at all. For that, I am grateful.