An Act of Christmas Kindness

Kindness star

I knew my favorite little post office closed at 1pm. I also knew I wouldn’t make it in time when I left the house a few minutes before 1pm on Tuesday.  But I piled the gifts I had wrapped and boxed up that morning in the back seat of the car and, hoping against hope, drove there anyway. The desire to avoid the long lines at the other two, more popular post office locations fed my denial.

Sure enough, when I climbed the wooden stairs of the historic building that houses the post office, juggled my packages and jiggled the door knob, it was locked. Of course it was locked. It was now ten after one.

I trudged back down the stairs, accepting the sad reality that I would spend the next hour or two of my life in a slow-moving queue with all of the other holiday procrastinators. When out from the post office there arose such a clatter, I swiveled my head to see what was the matter. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic.) But there in the window was the postman, rapping on the glass, motioning me to return. Had I just awakened from a long winter’s nap? Or was I dreaming?

My New Favorite Postal Worker unlocked the door and invited me in. He then proceeded to weigh my parcels, efficiently calculating the cheapest way to get them to their intended destinations on time. I kept apologizing for my tardiness and thanking him for his kindness. Less than ten minutes later, I was sailing out the door, mission accomplished.

“Thank you for making my life easier today,” were my parting words to him as I headed down the stairs for the second time that afternoon. Only this time my hands were free. My step, lighter. My heart, warmed.

It was an unexpected act of Christmas kindness.

In the process of mailing my gifts, I was given gifts:  He gave me back an hour (or two or three) of my time. He helped alleviate my stress. He lifted my burdens, literally and figuratively.

He didn’t have to do it. The post office was closed. But he did it anyway.

He reminded me of Someone Else who orchestrated the Ultimate Act of Christmas Kindness many years ago. This act of kindness was anything but random. It had been planned for centuries. And the time to unveil it had finally arrived.

…when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared… (Titus 3:4a, NAS)

I picture God a bit like the postman in the window, rapping to get our attention. Seeking us out and beckoning us to come in. Unlocking heaven’s door. Humbly and graciously serving us, though we had done nothing to deserve such kindness.

He did it anyway.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NLT)

Yes, Jesus came to bear the weight of our sin, to shoulder the burden of our salvation. When we come to Him, we too receive unexpected gifts:  Redemption. Peace. Joy. Freedom. Forgiveness. Grace.  And that’s just the start.

We leave His presence warmed. Light in spirit, full in heart.

This Christmas, if you hear Him knocking, might I urge you to turn around? Accept His invitation. Let Jesus escort you home and help you with that heavy load you’ve been carrying. He is more than capable.

And ever so kind.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7, The Message)

Come, let us adore Him.

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A Mary Christmas

Mary and Martha

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42, NIV)

Just call me “Martha.”

I want to be “Mary.”  Really, I do.

But despite my best intentions, each Christmas season inevitably finds me distracted with all my preparations, spending less and less time with Jesus.  This year has been no different.

A late Thanksgiving and an extra full social calendar this past month only made matters worse.  I’d snatch a few moments of prayer in the car as I drove from one activity to the other.  I’d quickly skim my devotional book before turning out the light at night.  But I had yet to slow down long enough to really worship the One whose name this season bears.

Until today.

I had planned to skip church.  The Broncos were playing early.  The service would be identical on Christmas Eve, so I wouldn’t really “miss” anything, I reasoned.  But as I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed around 10:15 this morning, still in my pajamas, I came across this post:

“The first day of winter – a good day to worship the Most High God!”

And then a few posts later, this:

Adore Him

Suddenly I felt drawn, compelled to drop everything and go worship.  I hurriedly dressed for the 11am service  and headed out the door alone.  I didn’t care what the rest of the family, or the rest of the world, for that matter, was doing.

I would worship Him.

And I did.  Hand raised.  Eyes closed.  Unaware of those around me.

I sat at the feet of Jesus.  My ears listening to His words.  My heart connecting with His.

It was a good – no, the best – place to be.  It didn’t have to be in church.  Worship can happen anywhere, whenever our hearts are centered on Him.  Even in the midst of all of our preparations.

So.  This is for all the “Marthas.”

Remember…

It’s never too late to have a “Mary” Christmas!

 

 

 

A few notes:

  1. I first heard Bob Horner share the phrase “Mary Christmas” when he taught on this passage at a Crusade staff meeting years ago.  I’ve never forgotten it.  I just forget to practice it!
  2. Thank you to my Facebook friends Anastasia and Kevin/Darcy for your timely posts!
  3. The above painting is called “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” by Henryk Siemiradzki.
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Santa Baby

As a child, I loved Santa.  No, I adored Santa.  Since I was a “good” girl, he and I were very tight.  In anticipation of his arrival on Christmas morning, my teeth would chatter so much I could hardly speak.  And I was his biggest defender on the school playground whenever anyone dared to question  his existence.

Of course Santa existed!  We were best buds! BFFs!  (No offense to those of you on the Naughty List.)

My loyalty to Santa persisted until the fifth grade, when I could no longer suppress the nagging feeling that I just might be the last remaining Santa follower in my class.  Fearfully, I approached my mom one fateful December day with THE QUESTION.

Does Santa really exist?

She gently told me the truth.  I still didn’t want to believe it.  Being the tender-hearted type, I was traumatized by this “death” of someone I had dearly loved.  The sight of jolly old St. Nick can still evoke the painful memory of that betrayal to this day.

Embedded in the heart of every child, every person, is a deep desire to be known and loved.  As a college student, years later, I would learn that my devotion to Santa was really a misdirected yearning for God.  Perhaps Blaise Pascal, 17th century French philosopher, physicist, and mathematician, said it best:

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

This world serves up many God-substitutes, things that promise to deliver like the delight of a Christmas morning.  Only in the end they leave us dejected and disillusioned, clutching an empty stocking full of holes.

In God, however, we encounter One whose love for us is real and constant.  In Jesus we find a friend who “sticks closer than a brother.”  In His Spirit we discover true fulfillment and satisfaction.  And unlike Santa, you do not have to “be good” to earn His approval.

God really does exist.

BELIEVE.

Let Him win and fill your heart.  Become His friend and defender.  Long for His arrival, like a little child with chattering teeth.

Take it from a former Santa Baby, now a Friend of God.

He will not disappoint you.

*For the Scriptural basis for these statements see:  Romans 8:38-39, Proverbs 18:24, John 7:38, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 5:5.

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A Familiar Carol

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.*

This was the song I replayed most often on my “Mercy Me” Christmas album as I drove around town this past week.  (Unless, of course, my 12-year-old daughter was with me, in which case we were “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.”)  It was a familiar carol.  But I seemed to hear the lyrics in a new way this year.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Something about this particular verse really resonated with me.  And that was before the terrible events unfolded yesterday at a Connecticut elementary school, interrupting Christmas preparations and shattering a quiet community’s peace.  I can’t stop thinking about the parents whose children’s beds lay empty last night.

It is easy to despair.

Christmas carols seem jarringly out of place in the face of such grief and devastation.  Hate is strong and mocks these songs.  Peace on earth?  Good will to men?

Where are you, God?

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

At times like this we need the message of Christmas more than ever.

God is very much alive.  He sees.  He knows.  He cares.

Jesus came to bring us peace with God, with others, with ourselves.

He is our only Hope.

And the babe that once lay helpless in a manger will return, with fire in His eyes and judgment in His hand.

He will fix this broken world.  He will right all that is wrong.  He will triumph over evil.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Newtown, our nation, and our world need You this Christmas.

 

*Lyrics from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1867.

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Like a Winter Snow

I scanned the first half dozen or so rows on either side of the aisle as I boarded the Southwest aircraft.  An unoccupied window seat flashed like a beacon in a vast sea of vacant middle seats.  I happily made my selection, stashed my carry-ons and buckled my seat belt in preparation for the flight from Denver to Tucson.  The gal seated next to me was friendly, and we quickly struck up a conversation.

Her name was Nina.  She was Jewish.  And an Atheist.

And I was intrigued.

A spirited but respectful discussion ensued, filling the next two hours, and touching on such light topics as the existence of God, the problem of evil, and the free will of man.  I had the opportunity to share a bit of my story with her and how I had entered into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

She raised this objection:  “If Jesus really was the Messiah, then why didn’t he establish his kingdom and set up his reign on earth?”

It was a valid concern for someone from a Jewish background.  Because Jesus didn’t exactly fit the “Messiah” mold.  Sure, he had caused quite a stir when he healed a bunch of folks.  There was a lot of talk around town that he might be “The One.”  But in the end, he just didn’t live up to all of the hype.  No mighty-ruler-who-will-deliver-us-from-our-oppressors here.

And they stumbled right over Him.

I referred Nina to the passage in Isaiah 53, where a “Suffering Servant,” who sounds remarkably like Jesus, is described.  And shared that, while it is true that He didn’t fulfill all of the Messianic prophecies at His first coming, the story isn’t over yet.  One day He will return to set the world right and establish His kingdom.

She listened attentively, but remained unconvinced.  Soon our flight touched down in the Arizona desert.  Nina and I both agreed that our conversation had been enjoyable and mutually stimulating, and we parted company.  I am praying that she will encounter the Living Christ.

Today I pondered the lyrics of this Christmas song and thought of her.

(You) could’ve come like a mighty storm, with all the strength of a hurricane.  You could’ve come like a forest fire with the power of heaven in your flame.  But you came like a winter snow.  Quiet and soft and slow.  Falling from the sky, in the night, to the earth below.*

It’s true.  The long expected Savior didn’t come as expected.  After all, a Messiah shouldn’t nap in a manger.  A king should wear a robe, not a cross, on his back.

This Christmas, don’t trip over the gift that is hidden in plain sight.

“And blessed is he, to whom I shall not be a stumbling block.” –Jesus, in Luke 7:23

*Lyrics are from “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad.  Follow this link to a great video of her song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=xpHiAmL8-b0

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