Friday, November 30, 2012

Double Contemplation

   As we prepare for Christmas it's easy to lose sight of the meaning of this Holy day.  The quest for "Stuff" demands our undivided attention and the commitment of our wallets - to some you're considered an unpatriotic Scrooge if you refuse to amass Christmas debt. These days before Christmas are called Advent (which simply means "Coming").  I invite you to use Advent to re-focus Christmas onto Jesus Christ.  Two colors mark the season of Advent and answer the key question of Christmas:
WHY did the Son of God have to be born?
   Jesus was born because this world is broken.  This sad fact is reflected through the penitential color of PURPLE.  We are broken people gathered together into broken families.  The whole of our life is seeking meaning in the midst of this craziness and establishing order amid the chaos around us.  Advent is a time to repent.  It is a time to acknowledge that Christ came into this world in order to save and rescue us from our own destruction.  It's easy for me to point to others as the reason the Son of God left His throne to be wrapped in humble swaddling clothes . . . it's healthier when I confess that MY sin contributed to His humiliation.  WHY did the Son of God have to be born?  In order to save the world!

   After accomplishing the work He was sent to accomplish (i.e., living perfectly in the place of imperfect people / dying for those destined for death / rising again in order to restore life to the world), Jesus ascended into heaven.  He left . . . but He left with a promise that He would return.  This hope is reflected in the color BLUE.  The paradoxical truth is that He is still with us, but beyond the capabilities of our senses to comprehend Him.  Though we live with sorrow, pain and striving, we look forward to the Day when Christ returns.  On that day evil will be forever banished from the presence of God's children.  On that Day death will be impotent as the dead arise from their graves.  And on that Day we will see Jesus face-to-face.  WHY did the Son of God have to be born?  So that after He had completed His redemptive work, He could return to bring us to Himself.

   To quote Linus, "that's what Christmas is all about."  May the Double Contemplation of Advent - repentance and hope - increase your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And may the angelic chorus be made true through YOU; "Glory to God in the highest!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cultivating an Attitude of Thankfulness

   WARNING: The following is a personal observation that includes actual historical facts.  While many consider History to be hazardous to their GPA, the Surgeon General has denied any dangerous side effects to using history . . . apart from our tendency to repeat it over and over and over again!

   It seems to me that we are an ungrateful nation.  We expect, demand and whine - seeking others to serve us, while seemingly never asking the question, "What can I do to help the situation?"  Being an amateur historian, I state without hesitation that the United States of America is the most blessed and fortunate nation in history.  While other empires may have covered more geography, the influence of the U.S. is truly global in nature.  While other large armies have roamed the earth, no nation has ever had the reach, scope and power of the Armed Forces of the United States.  In their time, other nations have prospered - but they pale in comparison to the American riches, as our agricultural and natural resources are unrivaled.  

   I'm NOT alone in this observation.  President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, issued a Proclamation calling for a national day of humiliation, fasting and prayer.  Written in the heart of the Civil War, Lincoln's words, strike home today:
    We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
     I believe ungratefulness flourishes in a heart where forgetfulness and a lack of humility have taken root.  And I point this accusing finger first at myself!  I take for granted that the air I breathe is a perfect mixture (78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and just the right smidgens of other misc. gases).  My refrigerator is full and I pat myself on the back for having remembered to buy milk.  But I am often ungrateful and often forget that it is the Lord Who has done all this for me.  

   There were once 10 men battling leprosy - living outside their city, forsaken by many of their family and friends.  Their hope of a normal life was gone and their future was bleak.  Then they saw a great sight, Jesus was walking on the road near where they stood.  They had heard about this Rabbi from Nazareth - He spoke and taught as One Who had authority, but better than that, He healed diseases!  And so they cried out "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"  Jesus told them to go into the city and show the priests their skin.  As they walked, they were cleansed from their leprosy! (Luke 17)  Hope, family and life were restored!  How did they react?  Only ONE returned to Jesus to give Him thanks!  ONE.

   I urge you to strive to escape the nine and be the one.  Humble yourself before the Lord, confess your weaknesses, and remember the blessings that surround you on a daily basis.  That's how we cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving. 

   Only 7 months after he issued his call for a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, Lincoln issued another Presidential Proclamation.  In this one he called for the establishment of a national day of Thanksgiving.  May the Lord grant you a blessed Thanksgiving as you raise your praise to Him with a grateful heart.  To God alone be the glory!