Dear Cousin Christian,
I know, I know, I don’t write nearly often enough, but you know how caught up we get in our often too-busy lives. Anyway, I’m writing what will probably be my last open letter to you in 2009, and so I thought it would be a good idea if I sort of took advantage of the season and write to you about what’s stirring in my heart these days. It’s been a “hellish” year for so many people I know. Many have lost homes, cars, and jobs. Other’s are deeply in debt so overwhelming, that they often wonder if they’ll ever find their way out. Tragically, I know, and have read of many others who have lost loved ones to sickness, war, and senseless deaths.
Interestingly enough though, life goes on (as life is wont to do) and we find ourselves living out the process and unwittingly acquiescing to the status quo. So, would you mind doing me a huge favor and pausing from stacking all those gifts under the Christmas tree so we can talk for a moment? You see, I’m reminded at this same time every year how much we throw around the well worn cliché, “Christmas is about Christ and not about culture. It’s about His presence and not presents,” while we live the very opposite of what we claim to believe. I realize that Christmas has been hijacked by political correctness and so we have come up with every appellation in the book to describe Christmas other than the word Christmas itself. Why, we’ve become so focused on being politically correct that we no longer even care about being factually correct!
As in every other year, this year many of us will incur debt that we’ll struggle to repay simply because we’re trying to keep up with the culture. Our fatuous largesse will serve to make for a ‘fat’ December and a miserable January. The reality is that this season is an amazing opportunity for you and me to really make a difference in someone else’s life so that the Real Light of the season shines brightly through us. There are families with terminally ill kids that will spend Christmas in the hospital. There are conditionally single parents who will spend Christmas far away from their families because they’re fighting in a war defending the freedom we cherish so highly yet take for granted. There are families that have lost loved ones and others that fear they’re about to. There are hopeless, homeless people wondering around in the cold praying that Christmas will provide a place to sleep and a meal to eat, and all the while we stack the gifts higher and higher around our evergreen trees covered in tinsel and artificial lights.
So, what if we chose to actually live out the Scriptures this Christmas and actually be kind and generous to the widows, the hurting, the broken-hearted, and those who can’t help themselves? What would it look like if we actually chose to obey Jesus’ words and love our neighbor as ourselves? What difference would we make if we chose to stop stacking the gifts around our own trees and start stacking them around the ‘trees’ of people who could use them more than we could? Remember that the reason for this season is the fact that Divinity stepped into humanity and the Potter became the clay. Remember that Jesus walked among His creation and healed, loved, encouraged, and inspired the seeking, the hurting, and the broken-hearted. Well, He still does today. Through you and me. Mark Batterson said it best in his book, Primal.
We have access to hundreds of Bible translations in every size, shape, and color imaginable…. For better or for worse, your life is your unique translation. Just like the Septuagint or King James Version, your life translates Scripture into a language those around you can read. God doesn’t just want to speak to you through Scripture; He wants to speak through you. He wants to write His-story through your life.
Wondering where or how to begin? Well here are a few suggestions:
I recently learned of a young pastor, Matt Chandler (I’ve never met him) who is dealing with a malignant brain tumor. He is lead pastor of a wonderful church called The Village Church, who, judging by their website are making an amazing impact in the community in which they serve. I imagine that Christmas really isn’t about presents under a tree for Matt, his family, and his church family this season. So first, you can pray for Matt. Then you can send a card or note of encouragement (go to their blog and find out how) reminding him that he’s part of a larger Body that is sharing in his pain and praying for a miracle. Or there’s Elin Nordegren and her kids (Tiger Woods’ family), who could really use your prayers this Christmas. Betrayal usually makes for a miserable yet stentorian bed-fellow. Then there’s Chris Henry’s (the recently killed NFL player) family who are still trying to make sense of the senseless death of their 26-year old dad, son, and fiancé.
But don’t stop now. How about your neighbor down the street who can’t afford a Christmas meal? You know, the one stuck in a wheelchair that makes it hard for them to get around?! Oh, while we’re at it, I heard that your local soup kitchen could use some help and some supplies, and even the Salvation Army mentioned that they could use some gently-used clothing this winter considering that the number of homeless people has risen dramatically. Whatever you decide to do, remember that you are the most amazing translation of the Bible that some people will get to see this Christmas, so let your words speak loud and clear as they attest to the fact that Jesus is here! Give someone a ‘Bible’ for Christmas. Give someone the gift of your love and life attesting to the power of Jesus’ love. Have a very blessed and hope-filled Christmas.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Dear Cousin Christian,