Dec. 20, 2011
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
As I was at the Post Office this morning and writing a check for my purchase, I contemplated what day it was. When I realized it was Dec. 20, I thought, “Wow! Christmas is really close!”
This Advent, I’ve been trying to encourage myself and others to not get so caught up in the business of Christmas preparations. Doing a daily devotional has forced me to pause at least for an hour each day and contemplate. But here’s the catch: it’s easier to write about something than actually live it in your life.
Isn’t this one of the great challenges of life? We can know and believe something. But living it on a daily basis really is a lot more challenging. I know exercise is good for me. I know that I’m more creative when I take time to exercise. Over time, my body responds. But when I get busy and feel stretched, what is the first good thing for me that I skip? Yep, you guessed it: exercise.
How easy it is for us to do this with our spiritual journeys also. I rarely fail to feed my physical body but too often I fail to adequately feed myself spiritually. Preparing for worship and planning how to present the Nativity story creatively once again doesn’t really allow me to spiritually feed myself. Sometimes it does. But honestly, it’s another thing on my “to-do” list that I just want to get crossed off.
Yesterday, I spoke about what Jesus would want on Jesus’ birthday wish list. The all-to-easy answer is to say, “I’m not really sure.” I disagree. In these verses from Matthew, which Jesus says very near the end of his earthly life, I think Jesus makes it very clear what would be on his birthday wish list. The best gift you could ever give me, he says, is to feed the hungry, get a drink for someone who is thirsty, help provide housing for the homeless, visit your sick neighbor, don’t turn away the stranger and yes, even visit those in prison.
It’s pretty clear what Jesus would most want us to do this week. As a pastor, there are two times of the year when I make an intentional effort to visitMidland’s shut-ins and those who aren’t able to get out very much. I do it right before Christmas and right before Easter. I know this is crazy because it’s also in those periods that my responsibilities for worship and special projects are also the greatest. Yet, I feel these times are important to bring God’s love to those who aren’t able to worship with us on a regular basis. I often share communion with these folks and bring along a small plate of candy or cookies. I’m trying to squeeze in the last number of visits I want to make yet this week, not quite sure when they will all get done. I just take it one visit at a time, in any available hour that I find.
Because in the end, I really believe these are the visits that bring joy to Jesus and the folks I visit. I’ve discovered that I can either view these visits as “work” or as a great opportunity to bring a small ray of God’s love into this person’s life.
At times, I’ve taken my niece or nephews or a grandchild or two with me on these visits. Every time I’ve done so, the person we are visiting has thoroughly enjoyed the younger person I’ve got tagging along. When I first brought one of these younger family members along, they asked why we were doing this. I explained that sometimes it’s important to stop and see folks who aren’t able to get out. It’s a way to bring some joy to their life. When it works out, Rick also has gone on these visits with me.
Can you find an hour this week to visit someone you wouldn’t normally visit? If there are younger people in your life, maybe see if they want to join you. I pray this won’t be “work” for you, but a great way to bring a little ray of sunshine to someone else’s life.
Let us pray: What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart. May we give of ourselves and allow others to see your glory through our actions. Amen.