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Learning from Lars

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In honor of Valentines day, I’m re-posting a blog from a few years ago. As you celebrate love, take a few moments to think about what it truly means to love those around us, and seize the opportunity to Learn form Lars. Lars and the Real Girl is, in my opinion one of the best best love stories found outside the Bible. Here’s why I think so:

I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

Written by liferenewed

February 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

Healing for your bones

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What I learned from walking on a broken leg

The day after Christmas, my sister talked me into going ice skating. It had been years since I’d laced up a pair of skates, but I took to the ice like a pro. Okay fine, not exactly like a pro. But I was skating quite well and having a great time, and that’s when I learned the main difference between me and the professionals: professionals have been trained how to fall without twisting their ankle and fracturing their leg. That’s right — five minutes before our skate time was up, this is exactly what I did.

As I went down, I knew it would be a bad fall. I wondered if I would break something. But I was able to get up and walk away. I was in pain and my leg was swollen, but no one with me thought it was broken. And let’s face it. I didn’t want it to be broken. I didn’t want to spend the night in an ER waiting room; I didn’t want this to slow me down. So, I decided to take some ibuprofen, apply ice, and keep an eye on it — if it got worse, I’d go to the doc. But it didn’t get worse. It got better. After two days, my limp was gone. After three, I was back at the gym. If I took it easy, I didn’t have any pain.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, of course I can see signs that I should have had this checked out, but at the time, they were easy to ignore. It was easy to rationalize why it would still be hurting — why my ankle was still swollen. You don’t fall that hard and not have pain, right? After three weeks of telling myself I didn’t need to slow down — that I could push through this — I finally gave in and decided to see the doctor. More for peace of mind than anything.

That was three and a half weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been in a cast up to my mid thigh, hobbling around on crutches. And let me tell you one thing I’ve learned — if God needs to slow you down, he can do it. I’m not suggesting that God caused my fall, but I am saying that he used it. He used it to get my attention. To give me some time to pray, listen, and think.

One thing I realized during this time is how we often ignore sin in much the same way I ignored my injury. Think about it. When God begins to bring sin issues to our attention, it’s easier to ignore them or make excuses than face up to them. If we admit to them, that means we have deal with them, and dealing with the sin in our lives is messy, unpleasant, and downright inconvenient. We want to continue with our normal routine. Addressing sin would simply rock the boat.

The thing is that, much like my injury, sin won’t go away just because we ignore it. We can try to convince ourselves that it’s getting better. We can clean up our lives just enough that the outward signs of it our gone. But unless we’ve addressed the heart issue, the pain, division, and dissatisfaction caused by sin will remain.

God used my injury to show me some areas where I’d been ignoring sin in my own life. He used it to show me that my focus was off. I was pursuing other things with the vigor and attention that should have been focused on him. My injury forced me to take a break from some of these things and to look at my heart. And it gave me time to re-focus my attention back on God. And so, I’m thankful. Having a broken leg sucks, and hobbling around on crutches is a drag. But having a God who loves me enough to call me out on my crap, encourage me to face up to my sin, and draw me closer to himself, is pretty awesome. For that, I’m thankful.

A week or so ago, I came across a verse in Proverbs 3 that reads, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing for your flesh and refreshment for your bones.” I’d read the verse before, but it took on a whole new meaning when I literally had a broken bone. And I think it gets to the core of what God’s been teaching me. Making excuses for, or ignoring, sin is human wisdom. If I’m wise in my own eyes, then I’m too proud to admit when God calls me out on my sin. But if I honestly fear God, I’ll want nothing more than to address my sin issues and turn from the evil in my heart. And that’s my prayer, that as God continues to bring physical health and refreshment, he’ll also work on my heart, stripping me of “self wisdom” and giving me the strength to turn away from sin.

Written by liferenewed

February 11, 2011 at 12:51 am

To the one who carried Christ

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Sometimes I wonder what you thought when he told you —

when he delivered the news that would alter your life.

 

“How can this happen?” is all that you asked.

A question of logistics, no hint of disbelief.

 

Sometimes I wonder if you silently protested,

questioning why you were part of God’s plan.

 

“May it happen just as you’ve said — ”

words of submission, no trace of dissent.

 

Sometimes I wonder if you cried that night,

mourning the loss of the girl you had been.

 

“I am the Lord’s servant.”

A statement given without hesitation.

 

Sometimes I wonder how it felt to be pregnant.

To carry the hope of the world inside.

 

“My spirit rejoices in God my savior — ”

Exclamations overflowing with joy.

 

Sometimes I wonder if you knew the weight—

the gravity of these events.

 

“And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Words you heard

and held

in your heart.

Written by liferenewed

December 26, 2010 at 2:11 am

Posted in Christianity, Jesus, Poetry

Living under a curse

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Finding freedom by embracing imperfection

Every morning begins with a stare down between me and my arch enemy. I look in the mirror, sizing up my body as if I expect that seven hours of sleep will have caused pounds to evaporate and muscles to emerge. It’s on, I think, an obvious giveaway that I haven’t left the dream world. We’re really not lookin’ so bad. I try to comfort myself with the reminder that it’s been worse. A lot worse. Oh yeah, retorts my body. Just hop on the scale. Its been better too—you’ve been better. My enemy doesn’t even have to deliver that final jab—the one that cuts the deepest. I do that all on my own.

It’s a clever enemy who can turn you against yourself. And my enemy has all sorts of tools for doing that. Scales and mirrors are some of the most effective. But when those aren’t handy, there’s a million other ways of engaging me in the fight. Comparison’s a classic, because it doesn’t take much. It’s subjective. And if I’m not paying attention, pretty soon I’m not just telling myself that I could be better, I’m also beginning to believe that I’m inferior to everyone around me.

Couple this with years of insecurity, and for perfectionist control freaks like myself, it’s a dangerous concoction. I can change this. I can prove myself. And until I do, what’s my worth? How can I even live with myself? It’s shameful to see such thoughts in writing, but these are the lies my enemy gets me to tell myself.

Trapped in this deception, I enter the fight. I count calories. I beat my body up at the gym. I listen to the voice and step on the scale every morning — knowing what it will say before I even get on. I do this for reassurance —reassurance that my enemy isn’t gaining ground, reassurance that even if I’m not winning, at least I haven’t given up on the battle. But the irony is that the more I engage in the fighting, the more I become a slave to the enemy, to my physical body, to perfection. As I begin to buy into this belief that I can conquer and control my body—that I can beat it into submission, I enter a battle I can never win. For as long as I live on earth, I will remain imperfect.

This is something the apostle Paul understood well. In Romans, he says that believers groan with the rest of creation because we “long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” Though I doubt Paul was thinking about the mirror or scale when he wrote this, he is acknowledging a reality that I’d be wise to take to heart. This First Century male who knew nothing of American culture or female body image pressure understood my struggle because he recognized the fact that we are all trapped in imperfect, broken bodies. And these bodies serve as daily reminders of our sinful nature. Creation groans because it’s under a curse. Likewise, my body has been cursed — marked as fallen. Imperfect.

Paul’s perspective sheds a new light my daily battle with my body. No matter how hard I try to beat it into submission, it will always — until the return of Christ — be under the curse of sin. Furthermore, my attempts to reach perfection are only evidence that I am trying on my own, to obtain something that can only come from God. As Paul puts it: “We [believers] wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us … the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23).

This is a perfect reminder that the real battle is not the one waged in the gym and determined by the scale. The real battle is spiritual, and the battle with my body is simply a far too effective ploy the enemy of God uses to distract me from the fight against, “the spiritual forces of evil.”

As Paul points out, we will all be trapped in these sub-par bodies until the return of Christ. And I think some of the frustration Paul expresses comes from the fact that this means we will have to continue fighting evidence of the curse — sickness, death, physical deformities — until Christ does indeed deliver the new bodies he has promised.

But the good news in Paul’s message is that even while we wait for those new bodies, we are under no obligation to try and obtain perfection. The promise of Christ means that we have been set free from all attempts to prove our worth. We can surrender to the battles that are enslaving us — the battles that are distracting us from our true identity in Christ. Paul states this plainly when he tells us, “you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s spirit when he adopted you as his own children” (Romans 8:15). And that’s the key to surrendering the battle of perfection and finding freedom—recognizing that God has called us his children. When our identity lies in the fact that he has claimed us as his, we no longer feel the need to prove ourselves, because our worth lies in him.

So I’m challenging myself to surrender the battle for perfection. When I look in the mirror I will still see my fallen, broken, imperfect body. But I should also see something else — a child of God. No matter what mirrors or scales say, that’s my true identity, because it’s the one that matters most.  And I’m challenging myself let my imperfections remind me of my sinful nature. Remembering that we live under a curse is powerful, because it thrusts us into the perfect posture to accept God’s grace and it’s when we’re  in this place that he looks at us and calls us his children.

Written by liferenewed

October 13, 2010 at 5:03 am

Where boldness and courage meet humility

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Reminders about speaking and listening from Watership Down

Being the English geek that I am, one of my favorite things is getting together with the girls in my book club to discuss literature. The five of us each take turns choosing a novel to read and then meet to talk about what stood out to us and, of course, drink coffee. This month, we’ll be discussing the conclusion of Richard Adam’s 1970’s novel, Watership Down. One of my favorite things about taking part in this group is that it’s causing me to read books I would probably never pick up on my own. Watership Down—a 500 page story about rabbits—is one of those books. When I heard this was selected as our next read, I immediately remembered the cartoon depiction I’d seen as a child and, for whatever reason, strongly disliked. I then proceeded to wonder what the heck rabbits were going to do to keep my attention for 500 pages.

But when I finally started reading, I was thrust into an adventure full of conflict and suspense as a small group of rabbits band together to escape the destruction of their warren, find safety, and create a new life on Watership Down. What’s more, I found myself surprised by how well developed these fictional characters are and how their rabbit-sized problems occasionally spoke to deeper issues. Though I’m under no illusion that Adams intended for his story to be some kind of allegory, I do believe that in places, it can speak to our walk as Christians.

I see this particularly in the character of Fiver, a small, somewhat disregarded rabbit, whose keen sense for impending danger feels almost prophetic. Within the first 20 pages of the novel, Fiver senses that the warren where they live is in danger. Though he has no specific idea what that danger may be and knows it may be difficult to get others to listen, he unashamedly shares his fears. Nevertheless, the head rabbit refuses to believe him, dismissing him as misguided and crazy. But Fiver does not back down. With the help of his brother, he is able to convince a small group of rabbits that for their own safety, they must flee the warren immediately.

Like Noah in the Old Testament, Fiver has to warn his people of a danger they cannot understand. And like us, he has an important message that could save others from destruction. I love that this gift of prophesy is bestowed upon Fiver — an unknown rabbit who is the runt of his litter — because it reminds me of how God often chooses to use those who are seemingly small and insignificant — those that the world may cast aside — to do his work. As Christians, we join a long line of “Fivers” — underdogs who God has entrusted with a life-saving message.

Like Fiver, we are asking others to join us on a harrowing journey that is full of unknowns. Thankfully, unlike Fiver — who did not know where they would go or how they would stay safe — we have a strong sense of hope to offer; vital to our message is the promise of salvation and the presence of Christ. But despite these assurances, we are still bound to meet with similar responses as our furry friend. Authority figures might refuse to believe us. Some may laugh at us and say the idea of salvation is unnecessary. Others will dismiss us as crazy. The question is: will we keep the message to ourselves for fear of their response? Will we cave in, backpedal, and deny the truth when others refuse to believe?

I was challenged by the way Fiver never lets fear of what others think compromise his mission. As Christians, we are called to do this both as we interact with the world and as we live in community with other believers. Though we may not all have the gift of prophesy, when we walk in step with the Spirit, he will give us words of advice and guidance to share with those around us. Once Fiver and the others embark on their journey, he continues to sense when things are not right and remains unafraid to speak his mind, even when he knows his opinion will not be popular — and when what he has to say does not seem to make sense.

Fiver’s advice also comes with a spirit of humility, something that is vital for any of us carrying a message in the name of Christ. When Fiver gives advice, he never argues, justifies, or tries to rationalize. He simply shares what is on his heart and leaves the decision in the hands of the person he is talking to. Likewise, he never plays the “I told you so,” card, though there are multiple occasions where he has the opportunity. I think this tells us a lot about Fiver’s motivation. He is not in this to prove a point or make himself look good. He is concerned only for the well-being of his friends, and it is this attitude that enables him avoid getting tripped up by worries about what others may think of him. It may sound silly, but I admire the boldness, courage, and quiet humility that meet in the character of this small rabbit. And it left me wondering, what would our communities look like if we listened to God’s spirit and loved each other in this fashion more often?

Similarly, what would happen if we listened to the wisdom of others more openly, recognizing that God’s Spirit may speak to us through them? In Watership Down, it takes the rabbits awhile to catch on to the idea that they should probably pay attention to what Fiver has to say. His brother helps him convince a few rabbits to leave the warren, but even after they realize how right he was about that danger, they still question and sometimes refuse his advice, often due to selfishness and pride. I think that God has placed “Fivers” — people who are in tune with the His Spirit and can bring messages of instruction and warning — in each of our lives as well. Like the rabbits in Watership Down, we are faced with the question of whether or not we will be able to put aside our own ideas and desires and be open to the possibility that the one who has a word for us may be God’s mouthpiece.

My prayer is that I would cultivate a listening heart and humble spirit — that I would be open to hearing God speak through those around me and ready to let him use me however he sees fit, no matter what others may think.

Written by liferenewed

June 3, 2010 at 3:40 am

How God uses suffering

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Or, the blog you’ll never read

The last time I had a blog post ready to publish was a month and a half ago. I’d written about suffering and how God’s view of our struggles is so much more complete than our own. I talked about how we see only a portion of what is really a grand landscape in which God is weaving a masterful story. The post used some great imagery and was rather poetic. But you will never get to read it.

I finished the writing late on a Wednesday night. I was tired, and the perfectionist in me wasn’t confident that the blog was quite ready to publish. Carefully saving the changes in a Word doc, as I do with all my blogs, I decided that I would wait until the following evening and give it one more read-through before sending it live.

On Thursday, I got off of work early. I went to the gym, ran a few errands, and then headed home to pay some bills and post my blog before a meeting that evening. But when I got home, I found my parents surveying the damage caused by burglars, who had broken in through the bedroom window, ransacked the place, and taken anything of value they could get their hands on—including my laptop. The blog that was all but ready to post was gone, along with a handful of other documents that I had yet to create backups for.

It seems ironic when you think about it, that the day after I write a blog on suffering, my house would be broken into. But I think it’s more than irony. I think that there is something bigger going on. Earlier in the year, I memorized James 1, which begins with a theme that is common throughout the epistles:

When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy, for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow. For when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

The morning after the break-in I was reminded of this verse while blow drying my hair. Later, I asked my dad if he was rejoicing. “Rejoicing?” he asked, as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard me right. None of us had slept well and after five hours of restless tossing and turning, finding joy isn’t usually the first thing on the agenda. “Yes,” I replied. “God is growing us.”

In his sovereignty, God determined that rather than posting a blog about suffering, it was more important that I learn something about it. I’m not trying to suggest that God caused this to happen—that would go against his character—but I do believe that he is using it to make me more like himself. And if that’s the case, it’s ultimately an answer to prayer.

The blog on suffering was prompted by several weeks of watching close friends battle giants. Relationship issues, loneliness, family dysfunctions, and a host of other problems were threatening to steal the joy and even the faith of those I care for. I stated in that blog what I’ve told many of these friends: that though the enemy intends these things for evil, God will use them for good; that even though it may be hard to imagine things changing, countless examples in the Bible testify that we can have faith in a God who is ultimately creating a beautiful picture with our lives.

I also talked about one of my favorite places to walk—a trail around a golf course just a few miles from my home. The path loops down by the water, providing a close-up view of the ever-changing waterfront. Here, the winds seem to overtake the ocean, and the shadow of the Olympic Mountains makes everything seem small and insignificant. Occasionally, a train lumbers past, blurring the scenery with faded yellow boxcars. I talked about how—from this vantage point—it’s easy to focus on just one thing—the vastness of the mountain, the threat of the wind, or the whir of the train cars that block the view of the horizon. But when you loop back up to the top of the hill, you see the entire scene from a completely different perspective. From here, it becomes clear that in overall picture, the mountains aren’t really so large and overwhelming, the storm that pounds the shore will soon be followed by softer waves, and the distraction of the train will only last for a short while. I like to think of this as the view that God has of our lives. He knows that the suffering we are overwhelmed by and the struggles that block our view are only temporary. And what’s more, they are necessary to make the pictures of our lives beautiful and complete.

And this is why he tells us to rejoice. The struggles I’ve been facing in regards to the break-in pale in comparison to those many of my friends are up against. Nevertheless, God has used them to teach me some things about trusting him and about what it means to affirm his goodness.

The worst thing about the break-in was the feeling of violation. Shortly after it happened, I remember thinking that of all the things the burglars took, I missed my sense of security the most. I’d been living with this false idea that doors and windows and locks could keep me safe from outside evils. I’d believed that nothing like this would ever happen to me. When it did, my sense of security was revealed to be false. That in which I placed my trust had failed. As I thought of ways to make my home more secure and realized that nothing I could do would ever give me a 100-percent safety guarantee, I realized there was only one way to find peace. I could live in fear or I could choose to trust God—to find my security in him. The security that he offers is something that no one can take away.

Because I’d just been blogging about God using suffering in our lives for good, one of the questions I was faced with when this happened was whether or not I could trust that God had a plan. And so, almost immediately, I stopped and prayed. I prayed for the robbers, that God would do a work in their hearts, and I prayed that ultimately, God would take something birthed out of ill intent and use it for his purposes. And he has. The most visible evidence of this comes with the relationships we are beginning to build with our neighbors. For the most part, people in our neighborhood have kept to themselves. But this event forced us to reach out, if only to let them know what happened. And that served as a bridge that I hope to cross many more times, a bridge that I believe God can use to allow me to carry his love to those he has placed me in a neighborhood with.

Affirming God’s goodness means recognizing his hand in the midst of things that don’t make sense. Evil never makes sense. Pain never makes sense. And while God does not cause these things, for those who trust him, his hand is always present in the midst of them. Because God is good we can trust that our struggles are just one part of the overall picture he is creating with our lives. And these struggles will allow for a vibrant, more complete landscape. So, I rejoice. I rejoice because God is changing my heart. He’s drawing me into a closer relationship with him and ultimately, preparing me to better respond when even bigger challenges arise in the future.

Written by liferenewed

May 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Celebrating peace

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Why I’m rejecting mainstream Christmas

I love Christmas. Though I cringe at cheap sentimentality, there is a sentimental chord in me that is easily struck during the holiday season. I love singing Christmas songs and watching old classic movies. I love drinking coffee and tea out of red Starbucks cups. I love making gingerbread men and hanging old crusty ornaments on the Christmas tree. I even love waking up early to sit in the living room all disheveled, watching my family dump out stockings full of silly things like toothbrushes and oranges. But in recent years, as I’ve begun to spend more time reflecting on the holiday and taken the time to question the traditions many of us hold dear, I’ve found myself feeling like somewhat of a Grinch.

It’s not that I have a heart that’s two sizes too small or that I’m against a good, jolly Whoville celebration. In fact, I think the idea of celebration is right-on. It’s vital that we pause from the monotony that defines our lives and take time to remember that we were made for peace, not chaos. That’s what celebration is supposed to be about. For Christians, celebration—particularly the celebration of Christmas—is a reminder that we are part of a larger narrative. The story that you and I live is incomplete without the story of the virgin birth; it is incomplete without recognition of the fact that we were made to live in the peace the Christ child came to bring. Because of this reality, we are part of a grand story, and we each have a role as an agent of peace—we have been entrusted to live out the peace of Christ in a broken world.

And this is where I get all Grinchy about Christma
s. I find myself wanting to reject all that Christmas has come to stand for, because in modern-day America, this holiday is anything but peaceful. And in many households, it’s far from celebratory. I don’t think I need to go into details. You’ve seen the chaos in your own lives and witnessed your neighbors and coworkers on the verge of breakdown. We think we are celebrating, but when Christmas is over, we are left exhausted and empty. The things we thought would bring us joy—be they parties, gifts, or traditions—ultimately fail to satisfy. We work hard to make Christmas perfect, but it never really is.

Ironically, the answer to truly celebrating at Christmas time comes in actually embracing that which we work so hard to forget during this season—our imperfections; the fact that, on our own, we will never have peace or satisfaction. Inviting this reality into our holiday season allows us to acknowledge the role that the grander narrative of Christ’s love plays in our lives, and it frees us from the oppressive ways the world tries to celebrate the season. Let’s face it, the pressure to give and receive the perfect gift is burdensome, and the anticipation that often accompanies this holiday can leave us trusting in the world’s system for joy and hope, rather than relying on the Prince of Peace.

To live as agents of Christ’s peace, we must reject the mainstream approach to Christmas. And I’m not referring simply to the “worldly” approach. I’m talking about stepping back and examining the way in which we as Christians celebrate the holiday season. We talk about the true “reason for the season,” but often, we celebrate like everyone else—maxing out our credit cards, worrying about who we should give to, and hoping that Santa won’t forget us. I’m suggesting more than a simple shift in rhetoric, something deeper than making sure we say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.” I’m suggesting that we, as Christians, use the way we live and celebrate to tell the world a different story—a story that speaks of peace rather than chaos, of love rather than greed.

There are many ways to do this at Christmas time. My church is participating in Advent Conspiracy, which encourages Christians to redistribute Christmas funds by donating the money they would have spent on gifts to building wells in Africa. This is powerful on several levels. For one thing, it allows us to give creative and relational gifts to our friends and family members that are often more meaningful than anything we would have purchased. It also allows us to give something to Jesus, the one who told us that what we do for the least of these, we have done for him. What a powerful way to spread the message of peace.

I recognize that its Christmas Eve already, and you’ve likely purchased your gifts. Nevertheless, it is not too late to celebrate differently. Be creative, think of ways that you can spread the message of Christ’s peace this season. Give of your time. Do a favor for each of your family members on Christmas day. Focus on putting the needs of others before your own. Truly recognize—with your heart, not just your words—that joy and satisfaction do not come from receiving gifts or pulling off the perfect holiday meal. Read the Christmas story and let its truth sink deep into your heart. Embrace the fact that you are part of a grand, beautiful narrative.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called; Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Written by liferenewed

December 24, 2009 at 8:42 pm