Tuesday, 23 December 2014

That’s Christmas to me

A few days ago J and I watched The Polar Express.  I remember really enjoying it the first time I watched it several years ago.  I thought it was a sweet film with a nice message.

This time I found myself frustrated. 

The message of the film is essentially that if you just believe you can keep the magic of the spirit of Christmas alive for yourself.  But believe in what?  That Santa is real?  All the adults who watch this film know the truth there.  And what exactly is the spirit of Christmas? 

Picture from egyptiantheatre.org

The truth is that Christmas is not about keeping the dream of Santa alive.  It’s not about ‘the spirit of Christmas’.  It’s not even about giving and family time, though we do enjoy doing this at Christmas time. 

Christmas is about celebrating the greatest gift this world has ever received.  We share the love by giving each other gifts, but it’s not even really about this.  God has given us the amazing gift of his son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate among us, Emmanuel.  Jesus humbled himself from his place as creator and ruler of everything to become a helpless, dependent baby. 

But it’s not the fact that Jesus, God himself, was born into this world that makes him the world’s greatest gift.  It’s what he did with his life that is significant.  He gave it up on behalf of sinners so that we would be forgiven.  It is because of what happened at Easter that makes Christmas important. 

On Sunday we heard a friend preach for the first time (which was exciting to be at) and he reminded us to remember the most important thing at Christmas time.  I felt particularly rebuked when he asked “would you feel like the day was less stressful if you took Jesus out of Christmas day?”  It certainly would make getting to things on time and having time to open presents with family easier if we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning.

I realised that Jesus isn’t often my focus at Christmas time.  Jesus gets about an hour of my day on Christmas day while I’m at church, and the rest of the day is about family and presents and food. 

As I was catching up with a good friend today we talked about this and both committed to putting Christ back into the centre of Christmas.  Here is one practical way we thought of for doing this: every present I open, every good bite of food I eat I want to remember that the gift of Jesus is even greater and thank God for him.  Hopefully this will help me to be more mindful of why we really celebrate Christmas. 

I’m interested to hear how others keep Christ at the centre of Christmas.  What do you do?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Do you stop?

He was standing on the side of the highway, next to his car, waving a hand in the air.  I was driving and asked J if I should pull over.  We had almost driven past him.

I pulled over.  The man had sheepishly run out of petrol, 20 kilometres from the next town.  We didn’t have any petrol in a can as he first asked, but we agreed to take him into town to buy some.  He told his wife who was waiting in the car what was happening and then came with us. 

It turned out he was going the same direction as us, for the same reason.  Visiting family for Christmas.  He told us all about his son, his grandchildren, where they were at school, what they were interested in.  And it turned out he was a Christian too.  We’d heard of the church he went to, and even visited the church his son and grandchildren went to in our home city. 

To be honest, we had both been nervous about stopping for someone in the middle of nowhere.  For me, the fact that he was a older man allayed some of my fears.  It was a relief to find out that we weren’t just helping a stranger, but a brother in Christ.  I always feel safer and more comfortable around Christians.  But we didn’t know this when we stopped. 

On our drive we’ve been listening to an audio recording of the Gospel of Luke, read by us and some of our fellow students.  One of the parables that Jesus tells is of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).  This story is Jesus’ response to the question “who is my neighbour?”  Jesus turns the question around.

Which of these three do you think became a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36 –37)

I was reminded that anyone in need is our neighbour.  And by helping we were being good neighbours.  I don’t regret stopping for this stranger and driving 40 kilometres more than we had to.  They were both so appreciative and couldn’t stop saying so.  Perhaps I won’t be so nervous about stopping for someone next time. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What makes work enjoyable

Hello everyone.  I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted anything.  College is finished and we’re on holidays but I still haven’t written anything.  I guess I felt that there wasn’t much to say. 

I’ve got a little bit more of an excuse for the past two weeks.  I’ve been working for two weeks and Monday was my last day.  I was working in a warehouse of toy company, dealing with the online orders they receive.  I helped fill orders by picking stock off the shelves and pack orders, sometimes with Christmas gift wrapping, ready for posting.  Someone called me a Christmas elf. 

I heard about the job from a friend at college and half the people working there for the past two weeks are people I know from college.  It has been fun working with people I already know.

L and I were excited about this huge Sylvanian Families order being completed.

I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the work.  It’s fairly repetitive and far more physical than mental (not that there was much heavy lifting at all, just a lot of standing or walking around all day).  But I realised during this job that I don’t mind that at all.  I don’t mind doing jobs that are repetitive, physical and probably classed as ‘menial’.  I have told J more than once that I’d happily stack chairs and vacuum at church as my way of serving there. 

Perhaps admitting this is selling myself short intellectually, I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m just exhausted from all the thinking that I’ve done this year.  Maybe I would get bored of this kind of work if I did it all year.  My feet certainly would protest! 

Perhaps much of the enjoyment came from doing the job with friends.  Not even very close friends, but people I call my brothers and sisters in Christ.  People I trust.  There’s a sense of camaraderie in the warehouse, and I love that.  I’m glad for the opportunity this job gave me to get to know some of my fellow students better. 

People talk about doing a job that you find fulfilling so that work doesn’t really feel like work.  But perhaps sometimes the work is enjoyable not because personality and interests match well with the job, but because of the people you do it with.