Beauty, Christmas, Church [and a lot of random thoughts]

IMG_3435Remember when everything seemed new? Perhaps you saw the ocean, mountain landscape, or flew above the clouds for the first time and took a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty around you. Remember that awe-inspiring feeling of recognizing how small you really are in the timeless evolution of eternity and the grand design of all creation?

I think far too often we pass through our days being so self-absorbed and internally-focused that we miss what is happening around us. We fill our lives with distractions in order to take our focus from dealing with anything meaningful, because it may require commitment… it may require additional effort… it may require spending energy, or part of ourselves, on something that we hadn’t planned… it could make us tired, exhausted, scared, or… (even worse) less selfish. If we slow down and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying in the moment, He could require us to change what we’re doing… how we’re living… where our focus lies.

My closest friends know that I have a tendency to be distracted by the intricacies of every moment as it passes (those who don’t know me as well assume I’m very random and have a short attention span), finding the “point” or some way to fully embrace each experience (and trying to pull others into it as well) is one of the ways I find brings me closer to God and helps me sense the presence of the Spirit within… a form of worship… in enjoying the life and time I’ve been given while it lasts.

It’s almost annoyingly trendy to regurgitate the fact that our modern lifestyle (at least in the spoiled, rich nations) is more connected than it has ever been, but it’s also more isolated and devoid of meaningful relationships than it has ever been. How does this happen? It’s something I’ve been working on personally, allowing myself to care for others in a way that is sometimes exhausting (and the hardest part for me: allowing others to care for me).

Here’s a better question…

How does the church (or do Christians) live in a world full of poverty, starvation, slavery, curable disease, and child brutality without bothering to address it? Is it simply easier to bury our heads in the sand and tell ourselves that “family is the most important thing?”

It’s sad… it’s disgusting. People are dying from things we have the resources to prevent or stop, but we’re worried about who is/is not coming to Christmas dinner and if all the side dishes are covered.

I’m not writing this from a condescending or cocky mindset… but from one of self-examination. Sometimes I see an injustice and speak out (particularly against those who are demeaning women or hurting children), but other times I really suck at making justice a priority (sometimes I’ve even hit “reverse” on impacting others in this way)… and it makes me angry.

Alright, so back to Beauty and Wonder…

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” -Psalm 46:10

We expect an omnipotent being to speak to us in earth-shaking methods, using means by which it is impossible to ignore. However, God wants us to seek Him… to love Him… so He speaks in quiet whispers that are easy to miss if we are not listening (remember, our relationship with Christ is one described as with that of a lover). Being “still” (or “meditating” if you prefer that word as I do) before God refocuses our minds and hearts around the silence through which He speaks.

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” -1 Kings 19:11-13

It is in this stillness before God that we most clearly hear his wisdom, his voice… his direction.

Sometimes, I think Christians suffer from an entitlement mentality. We believe that, since our faith teaches us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, everything is finished. This work of reconciliation is complete. While this is true in a spiritual since… God didn’t transform us into strictly spiritual beings at the moment of conversion. He left us here on earth to continue this ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began during his time here, or as Jesus called it… Building God’s Kingdom.

Followers of Christ (or the Church at large) play(s) a role in making sure God “is exalted in the earth.” Jesus stated this:

“…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

Our “good works” are in righting the wrongs of this fallen society… fallen world. Instead of being an impossible religion where a disgruntled god expects us to somehow earn favor and perhaps reward us with some eternal utopia or peace… God recognized that we are never going to be perfect. This is the beauty of Christianity: we don’t have to be perfect in order to attain perfection, God recognized this and sent Jesus to settle this matter. Instead of spending our time focusing on earning favor, God wants us to spend our time righting the wrongs of this world.

Is that what we are doing? Is that what our churches are doing?

I would argue that any church not fulfilling the mission of redemption is not a church at all. It may be an educational center for religious matters, or a really loving social club, but it is not the “church” as Christ established it here on earth. It may have the most spiritually knowledgable people involved…

…but it also may be a failure in accomplishing the mission of Christ, if it is not taking the messed up parts of this world and turning them into something beautiful…

…Just as Christ has done for us.

So, as Christmas is approaching, if we really want to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world and the reconciler of our souls…

Why don’t we try doing the things He’s asked us to do?

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