Saturday, December 22, 2012

God Loves you, Merry Christmas!

I'd like to tell you a story about a very special person. For the sake of the story, we will just call her "Susie".

Susie has had a hard row to hoe. She is a single mom. She has some physical disabilities. She is blessed with a loving mother, but is from a fractured family. She is well acquainted with poverty. She has struggled with sin in her life, including chemical dependency, among other things.

Despite these challenges Susie is blessed beyond measure. She is blessed because she is a disciple of Christ. She is a living example of the love of Christ and what it is and what it does in the world, and what it means to call yourself a Christian. She is also a teacher... not because she is a biblical scholar or a great preacher, but because she shows the love of Christ in her life. That's the most important kind of teaching in the world. Edgar Guest said, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear a sermon". By that he meant, I'd rather see someone living Christ than talking about Christ. The bible tells us to be "doers of the Word" (James 1:22). That's what Susie is. She is a doer of the Word. She is a doer of Christ.

Let me tell you why this is true. Susie is a member of a church. Sometimes she has trouble making ends meet and so now and then her church family provides some help to her. A while ago her church family gave her some gift cards to buy food and other stuff at some local stores. One day Susie was at the store buying some things for her family and when she was done she walked outside and on her way to the car she spies a person in the parking lot. It's not important to describe this person. It's not important to describe all of the signs that presented themselves to Susie. Suffice it to say that what Susie saw was a person who was in need, a person who needed help. A brother/sister in need (which is to say, a stranger in need). So what did Susie do? She reached into her pocket and she pulled out one of the gift cards that she had received from her church family, and she handed it to this person in need and she said, "God loves you, Merry Christmas!".

Now I want you to think about that for a minute. This girl didn't have enough money for her own family, but she gave of her wealth to a stranger! She didn't have a surplus of wealth to give away, but she had something more important. She had a wealth more important than money. She had Faith! Her faith in Christ resulted in an outpouring of agape love, which resulted in her sharing this gift. A gift of true love. Now no one knows the impact of her gift, no one that is, except the person who received it and God. Susie's faithfulness may have had an impact far beyond the few dollars that were received by that stranger. Who knows what affect that love gift and those words of encouragement had on that life, at that moment in time? God knows. He knows, because he works through us to do good in the world. He works through us to show Christ to those who are still in darkness.

Now it isn't much of a hardship for most of us to give gifts to those that we love, and we don't mind giving gifts of charity to those in need, through the office, or through church. We hear the bell ringers and we drop a few coins into the little red pot when we come out of the store, and we feel good about what we have done. But what if we decided to give of our wealth... to really give to those that God presents to us. What kind of difference might we make in the world if we really gave of our treasure? What a difference could we make if we decided to give like Susie did! Jesus makes note of this kind of giving. The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus' observing and commending this kind of sacrificial giving by the widow in the temple (Mark 12:41-44). If a "widow's mite" can be used of God to make much good in the world, imagine what God would make of our gifts, if we would just give them. Imagine what good would be done in the world if our faith were as mighty as the faith of the great ones... like the widow, like little Susie.

Give to a stranger and then tell him, "God loves you, Merry Christmas!"

Give a gift this Christmas. Give of your wealth. Give of your time and talent. Give without expecting anything back. Give without anyone knowing. Give a gift like he gave to you... like he gave to me.

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