The joy of Christmas

Dear friends,

A gentle reminder for those of you who celebrate Christmas. After the giving and receiving and eating and joking and fellowship and fun are over, please pause to reflect that the joy you experienced is but a drop in the bucket compared to the good things which are to come.

Remember that the joy of Christmas is Jesus. Not just an ordinary man but the incarnate God Almighty who came to right all wrongs, lift all burdens, heal all wounds, satisfy all hunger and deliver all who are oppressed.

In the words of the Christmas hymn by Christina Rossetti,

“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.

What I can I give him, give my heart.”

It is in giving that we receive, in righting wrongs that we are justified, lifting the burdens of others that we are relieved of our own, tending to the sick that we are healed, feeding the hungry that we are fed ourselves, and in delivering the oppressed that we are delivered. Go, and carry the Incarnate God in your hearts and do good in the world.

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Rich in Poverty

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. – Matthew 26:11

We all know who the poor are. It's obvious. We see them every day. Many of us actually fit the bill for being poor.

This passage from Matthew's Gospel is a troubling one. The context is the story of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, breaking open an expensive bottle of perfume and anointing Jesus' feet. The disciples grumbled saying, "This was expensive perfume. Why wasn't it sold and the money given to the poor?"

Jesus, though, saw things a bit differently. Mary was in poverty. She probably spent all she had to purchase the perfume so she could anoint Jesus' feet with it. In the kingdom of God, there is nothing more precious, more valuable, than the full self giving of oneself, in love, to God. Remember the time Jesus and his disciples were in the temple observing people giving their tithes? They saw both rich and poor giving money, but it was of the poor woman who gave all she had that Jesus said, "This woman has given more than anyone else. They gave out of their wealth, but she has given out of her poverty." The same principle applies here with Mary. Not only would it have been cruel to take the heart offered gift from Mary and give it to someone else, but it would be an insult to her poverty and sincerity in her self giving.

Jesus did not take what she did lightly. He was not glorifying in himself. Rather, he showed the utmost humility in receiving from a woman in poverty. He was not above her. He did not set himself as superior to her and her gift. He graciously received it.

The "poor" in the original quote are not merely those of financial poverty, but anyone who is in great need. Whether it be ignorance, addiction, entitlement, or whatever, these are people who are in deep and desperate need. We often think of them as victims of their own foolishness. And perhaps they are, but that does not eliminate their present situation.

As Christians, we are to condemn NO ONE. We are to love all. We are to pray for our enemies (and not in the sense of asking God to 'get them' or 'make them like us'), bless those who curse us and give sustenance to any who are in need of it.

The world is full of poverty of all sorts. We have not been called to eradicate it, as it will never happen, but we are called to love, to feed, to give.