Friday, December 17, 2010

LIFE BEGINS HERE II: At the Cradle

"Unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 18:3

Two years ago the Christmas story came to life for me like never before. In the fourth week of Advent, I witnessed the birth of my first grandson. Though I have been squeamish at the sight of blood my entire life, watching his gooey, bloody body emerge was beyond glorious! The artist in me (and mother and grandmother) must have taken over. It was a technicolor event. The umbilical cord was the whitest of whites, the veins surging through it were the bluest of blues, and the blood covering his helpless little body was as red as red could be! There was nothing gross about this scene! Nothing at all! It was beautiful: a child had been born!
As the nurses and daddy were tending to mommas needs, I was first to speak into this little one's ears and to witness his squinting eyes as they cautiously opened to a new world. My pinky was privileged to have his tiny little hand grasp it for support. I will never forget these precious initial moments of his life.

As we worshipped in church the next morning, my heart was so full. I could barely sing the Chrismas hymns I have known since childhood. "O Come Let us Adore Him!" Our eyes were drawn to his cherub face. "Joy to the World!" We wanted to shout it from the rooftops: he had finally arrived! I felt in a small sense the awe that Mary and Joseph, the angels and shepherds must have felt on that first Christmas night. As they peered into the face of this helpless infant, they were gazing upon the glorious face of the Son of God. What a night of "firsts"! It's difficult to even imagine!

Life began right there in the manger that cradled our Savior. On that glorious night of Christmas, the Son of God became the son of man. He reduced himself to the life and limitations of a human infant in order to expand our human life and limitations to that of the divine. It seems the only human response should be to crawl into the cradle with Him, to cry out for His mercy and grace. And that is exactly where our life begins.
This Christmas, may the child in you embrace the child of God.
"whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:4
An Advent Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I honor you this Christmas. I seek to understand and appreciate that you came as a mere infant. You experienced our very existence and limitations from conception through death. Lord God, help me to see you in this baby Jesus. In this glossed-over picture-perfect Christmas baby, help me to see my Savior. Lord, help me to remove the layers of shellac I've placed over this manger scene for the sake of celebrating my own indulgences.
It feels as though we have glorified your birth in an effort to justify our own carnal appetite for more "things". May I no longer hide behind Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, fancy dinners, gift giving and receiving. Instead may I stand before the manger with the realization that the child born in Bethlehem in a stable is the very one who holds the key to the kingdom of heaven.
Holy Child, this year I join the Magi by bringing you gifts, releasing my grip on the treasures of this world. I give you my gold, the seeking of fortune and fame, of vying for position and striving for personal wealth. I give you my frankincense: the many attempts to "smell good" by pleasing people instead of you, my falsity and pride. I bring my myrrh: the anointing and worship of human life above God; vain attempts to embalm my humanity, to preserve my youth, to feed an insatiable appetite for cosmetic perfection.
I surrender these treasures on earth and long for the treasures of your Holy Spirit. I freely give you all that I have and all that I am. I want you to be first in my life.
In Your name, Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

LIFE BEGINS HERE: At the Cross

"Anyone who loves [her] father or mother more than me is not worthy of me;
anyone who loves [her] son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take [her] cross
and follow me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds [her] life will lose it,
and whoever loses [her] life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:37-39
It's easy to love those who love us. It's easy to give to those who can give back. It's easy to become so engrossed in our to-do list, our parties, our families, our BFF's this time of year, that there is "no room at the inn". We unwittingly hang a "No Vacancy" sign on the door of our hearts. We remain absorbed with Christmas as usual, leaving Jesus immobile, lying in a manger on the mantle. But Jesus is no longer in the cradle, and He doesn't want us to be either! If we are content as babes in Christ, we limit His potential in us. If we stay right where we are, we are of little use to Him. Instead, He woos us to leave the comforts of home, calling us away from the safety of our little circle.
The size of our love circle is a litmus test of discipleship. Who do you love? Who is in your circle? How big is your circle of love? Do you picture your 'love circle' drawn in pencil or permanent marker or chalk? If we are truly Jesus' disciple, our love circle should be ever-expanding, ever growing as we reach out, drawing more and more people toward God's love and light. If you are willing to be used by the Lord, draw your imaginary love circle in chalk. Then you can easily brush away the boundary lines as God stretches your heart, making room for everyone who crosses your path.
Who do you love most? Jesus speaks words that are hard to hear: "Anyone who loves her father or mother...son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."~(I believe even grandbabies are tucked into this statement)." If we love Jesus first and foremost, it is impossible to keep our arms tucked around our own little circle. He fills our love tank so full that we cannot help but love others, even those who may seem unlovable.
Life Begins Here.
It begins when we release our grip on the cozy little world we have created.
Life begins when we give up our life, our ideals, our agenda.
Life begins when we surrender it, give it up, stop controlling the outcome.
Life begins with love. The love that led Jesus to the cross, leads us there too.
"Whoever loses her life for my sake will find it.
Take up your cross and follow me..."~Jesus
Stay tuned for LIFE BEGINS HERE Part 2: At the Cradle!
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