Advent Blog Day 24 – This is merely a shadow

It went so quickly.

Tonight, after putting in several practices, we had our first ever Christmas Eve service at our church. It went well, but quickly. Same with our Christmas brunch with my family today. Lovely, but over so fast, I found myself in the car on the way home trying to remember if I’d had any quality conversations with my family at all.

I enjoy looking forward to special occasions – birthdays, holidays, reunions with friends I’ve missed, and of course, Christmas. I always have and probably always will. And I don’t think I’m the only one. We’re all placing hope in something in the future, something just around the corner. A promotion. A holiday. A new car. A reduced mortgage. The problem is that all these things are either just that, things, or they are just days, or weeks at the most, and they pass, lose their newness, their worth.

With Christmas tomorrow I’m feeling a mix of emotions. I’m already experiencing a bit of disappointment that part of our Christmas celebrations are over. And after digging up all our old Santa photos  at Mum and Dad’s, I’ve been reflecting again on the excitement and tradition of the Christmas Eves of my childhood. Going to church, and afterwards drinking ice-cream spiders, eating Mum’s special Christmas slice afterwards and setting out food for Santa. It doesn’t feel special like it used to. Tonight we ate Thai on the couch while trying to resolve a misunderstanding.

It’s very tempting to get all nostalgic and sad now, but I must catch myself. The family lunches, the events, the memories of the past – they’re simply not what Christmas is about. And the hope that it evokes needs to be centred on something worthy.

Celebrating Christmas is merely a shadow of a greater celebration that is yet to come. It won’t pass quickly – it will never end. Jesus was born – that he might die and rise again to pay the price for our rebellion, giving us the life that is truly life, forever.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night when Christ was born; O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Jesus – the reason for Christmas
Jesus – the reason for Christmas

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the daily wrestle

I have a daily wrestle. Perhaps I’m not alone? I see things – clothes, shoes, furniture, photos of other people’s holidays on Facebook, pretty rooms and crafts and teapots on Pinterest…and I want. And yet at the same time don’t want to want.

I realised how strongly I felt about this tension when I read a column in Sydney MX (commuter newspaper of moderate quality) on Monday about the writer’s sadness at somehow resisting buying a pair of shoes. She felt so sad to have resisted that she planned to buy them the next day and looked forward to the ‘joy’ and ‘satisfaction’ in buying another pair of shoes which she admitted didn’t need. Then she predicted the satisfaction would last only until the moment she saw some other pair of shoes in the shop window while leaving the store.

She said ‘don’t judge me’ (really!) which on one level is fair – I’m rich by world standards and have more than I need. I too have felt happy about certain purchases and yet, still wanted more. But I’m pretty tempted to – as I read it I felt a growing wretchedness in my stomach. Has humanity sunk so low as to place hope in shoes to make them truly (temporarily) happy? This ‘unstash’ concept I stumbled upon via Facebook seems to give voice to the ache I feel for stuff to be put in its place.

At the start of year I resolved to remember something to be thankful for every day. I don’t always remember, but from time to time, when I do stop and be thankful, it makes such a difference to the sense of contentment I have with life. It makes me remember what matters. Friends, healing, answered prayer, the things I’m learning from living in community with friends, for Jesus, for life, for family.

We were chatting about these money issues in our small group last night too as we wrestled with Paul’s words to Timothy in chapter 6 of his first letter. He counsels Timothy in verse 6 that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’ His charge to the rich (definitely me and most Aussies) in verses 17 to 19, is to be ready to do good works, generous and ready to share. We talked about how to apply this to our lives, especially in the context of being members of our church in Redfern with many people with high needs in our community and congregation. How do we help the homeless man who sleeps on our church porch when he doesn’t seem to want anything we offer? We don’t have the answers. We observed that the ‘rich’ in this world are often lacking in time, while one of the needs of the poor is help, obviously in tangible sometimes financial ways but perhaps even more so in the form of time – of people willing to invest in them.

It’s almost a month since I completed my two month challenge of only purchasing essential things. I was really inspired by seeing Margaret’s story at Colour Conference and so I have chosen to support the Compassion Leadership Program with some of the money I saved. It’s a small response but I pray it helps one of the bright, promising future leaders in one of their programs. I always need to pray I remember Paul’s words about being generous – especially with time, energy and money.

As our friend Carolyn pointed out, the only thing that gets into heaven is people. We take nothing into the world and we can’t take anything out. Even if we don’t have all the answers, are we fighting the good fight, pursuing godliness and taking hold of eternal life.