This Special Place, Where it is Always Christmas

“This Gospel anticipates a world far different from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia,where it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” But the promise of the Gospel is that it is always Christmas. To be “in Christ” is to enjoy each morning as a Christmas morning with the family of God, celebrating the gift of God around the tree of life.”

–Kevin Van Hoozer

Christmas can be a torment and tribulation for so many. I have no doubt it brings grief. Family, friends, finances– mixed liberally with heavy doses of materialism and manipulation will always bring us issues.  The music and decorations are mostly mere Novocaine (which doesn’t always work). Stress builds up. And we want none of that.

Being mentally or physically ill often accentuates these issues. I’m not sure why exactly, but suicide increases during this season. Perhaps the challenges Christmas brings just overwhelm a person who is struggling hard just to make it.

“Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and a nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chilled hidebound hearts.”  

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

As I think about Christmas, it is helpful for me to see it as a “mirror.” It is my reflection back to me. What we see, is who we are. If we have issues in our own life, the Season will just magnify them.  But this doesn’t mean its bad, far from it. There is always conflict, but this spiritual combat can bring us success. Some things must be fought for.

I’m convinced that in all of this, there is opportunity.  The chance to connect to “Christmas”. The very idea is quite strange.  But Christmas can be an exquisite treat.  It is made by mixing love and truth in generous portions. As we look hard for it, there is something that moves us to a place far beyond us. Grace makes us to stand and look, perhaps for the first time.

When we truly process this, we’ll find “Christmas”. And honestly, it is more than a holiday. For the Christian, it is special time. And yes, there will be times when it is trying, but in my own thinking, Christmas has become a time of great joy and anticipation.

It won’t take much, maybe a little imagination on your part. But those things you do may ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives. Be kinder then you need to.

“The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful. We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this world-wide, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the Calendar, nor out of the heart of the world.”   

Anonymous

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When Joy Brings You Strength, [What If…”]

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“And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings,  brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,

[This was when Aslan visits and sets free the stone statues from a evil spell]

The storyline is simple yet intriguing;  a stone statue suddenly comes to life.  I had the chance to visit the Westminster Abbey in London, UK.  I was astonished at statues where the detail is such that their veins can be seen under the stone skin.  The folds of their robes are carved with such skill that they are almost translucent.  A sculptor takes a large block of marble rock and transforms it into a beautiful and delicate work of art. It brought me to tears, as I stood staring with wonder.

I think that Lewis’ children’s story is pretty much of what you can expect if an entire museum of statues all of a sudden turn into real ‘flesh-and-blood.’ Can you imagine seeing a stone lion suddenly lifting its paws to inspect them?  He roars for the very first time, testing his vocal cords.  He suddenly pounces and chases his tail. His massive body stretches and he quivers with joy.  He is alive!  In the same way, the spiritual steps we take transform us, turning us from mere physical beings into spiritual.

As a person who must process clinical depression almost  everyday, it’s good when now and then to think of the craziness, the chaos, and wonderfulness that suddenly surrounded me when God filled me with his Holy Spirit.  The transformation from stone to flesh is just like the change from mere flesh into spirit.

We are new men and new women, coming to life, suddenly cavorting around, jumping about, a brand new creation! Gratitude swells the heart, tears stream down your face.  After centuries of standing stock-still, with pigeons perched on your head.  You would be able to move, and jump and leap.  The power found in such a miracle, has changes you.  Not unlike fallen flesh when it becomes spiritually alive.

I find when I’m depressed I experience temporary amnesia, I forget what tremendous things I’ve experienced the moment I first believed.  When I come into God’s presence, I should try to acknowledge what exactly has taken place to me.  It ‘s as radical as being turned from rock into flesh.  The statue has become alive.  A miracle has happened!  The introduction of joy into my depression is exactly what I need.  As a Christian I have been made alive!

“And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” 

Nehemiah 8:10, NLT
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ybic, Bryan

 

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My Pretend Jesus [Reality]

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Question. Is the real you, touching the “real Jesus?”

For some time now, I am asking myself this simple question. I’ve had some convicting  moments as I swirled this question around in my heart. There is no condemnation in this; believe me– it’s just a question (But I think it has pretenses of being more.)

First, I truly believe that God does not hide Himself the way we might think He does. As new covenant people; those purchased through Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is no room for doubt about this. We now truly have access into the very throne room. We are free to come and go, according to our desire.

Second, I’m starting to realize that I want to approach Him, but I draw back in fear, guilt and doubt. I hide in the bushes when I hear Him approaching (sound familiar?) And although I have assurance that Jesus wants me, I’m not fully convinced that He likes being with me– deep down.

And I’m not sure I always like Him. So, all too often, I creep up (in my creepy kind of way) and try to get enough of His Holy Spirit, without getting pulled into anything too authentic. I’m of the (false) opinion that He will demand something for me I won’t like.

In the C.S. Lewis book, “The Silver Chair” we are introduced to Jill. She is thirsty, she looks for water and finds it in a nearby stream. But, there is a difficult problem. You see the lion Aslan is very close, and to drink would make her vulnerable. The Lion speaks. He invites her to come and drink all the water she wants. She stalls. He waits. The thirst quickly intensifies until she can think of nothing else.

I have a ‘Jill-heart.’  God is present, and quite eager for me to come satisfy my thirst. But it terrifies me to become open and vulnerable. It is hard. It seems I still have to work through this issue.

Sometimes, I find I construct a modified Jesus to allow me to cope with this problem. He is not the real Jesus, and somehow I know this. But encountering the real is a bit too much. So I have a Jesus that is really kind, and never corrects me. He lets me get away with a lot of things. And I don’t have to have contact with the homeless or tithe. I admit I’m fairly comfortable with Him. (He is like me, but more “god-like.”)

OK, new thought. Many centuries ago, a monk by the name of Lawrence wrote the classic book,  The Practice of the Presence of God. In it he directs the seeker to be in habitual awareness of God. And I’m thinking about this. I know it’s really not a fluid or unending experience, but throughout my day I take a moment and invite Jesus to come closer. And, it’s best if you don’t turn “the means into the end.” After  all, its the presence of God we seek– and not the mechanics of seeking.  Big difference.

I have gotten very dissatisfied with my fake Jesus. He’s not a bad guy, but he is only a “knock-off,” an imitation– an imaginary Jesus.

I’m coming to this place where I want the real Jesus– in contact with the real me, as often as I can. For years I have dodged Him, ducking in alleys and in dark places. I have propped up a Jesus that I found easier. Those days are done, I hope.

Question. Is the real you touching the “real” Jesus?

ybic, Bryan

 

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