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Expectations at Christmas Time

What are your expectations at Christmas time? A better question may be, “What were Mary’s expectations at the time of Christ’s birth?”

Considering what happened all those years ago can help us gain perspective. We are told many times through scripture and from the pulpit of Mary’s situation, but for Mothers in particular – this deserves another look.

Why? Because we mother’s, even humankind as a whole, have a commonality to behold. We all worry about what other people think. Read (1 Samuel 16:7).

We want our families to look perfect and act perfect, when we know that is not realistic. None of us are perfect (Romans 3:23).

We fuss over the house, the food, the sleeping arrangements, when Mary had none of these options. We mourn over those children who do not share the faith anymore, but then we read not all of Jesus’ brothers believed (John 7:5). And we can assume quite reliably that the siblings did not always get a long.

We want all of our family together at Christmas time, and especially shining radiantly in the pew beside us, but the shortcomings we focus on make us feel out of place, perhaps even condemned?

Mary felt condemned. Not many understood the miraculous birth of Christ. And as he grew older, the rumours of who Jesus’ real Father was, still rumbled.

Mary’s focus had to be on what she believed in, not what was happening all around her, and certainly not on what people were saying.

As a mother of diverse children who are all on a journey to test their faith and make it their own, or not – my focus this Christmas is on my relationship with Jesus, and the purposes He has for me to live out. Both my husband and I taught our children about Jesus while they were growing up underneath our roof. Now we teach our children through how we choose to live our lives, even after they’ve moved out.

It seems terrible to compare Mary’s suffering or even Christ’s suffering, to ours, but that is part of the why Christ came – to identify with us in every way (Heb. 4:15). As parents and children, there will be sufferings, and temptations of all kinds.

When you observe Jesus’ birth this Christmas ask Him to help you focus on Him, and not all of your (our, their) imperfections. When I see my brothers and sisters at church I am not thinking of their wayward children, or comparing my children to their godly offspring. I am not remembering how they fell yesterday, or how I fell last week. I am looking in their eyes as one child of God to another with faith and hope for our future because of what Jesus Christ’s birth came to accomplish.

Finally, if we can focus on what faith means “faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), we can TRUST instead of worrying. Mary chose to trust in God no matter what. She could have worried her whole life about her calling as a mother, her children’s paths, and appointments, about what her family looked like to everyone who lived around them, about how her children bonded, or didn’t bond, but instead she trusted God.

Even as I close I recognize a slight deviation from that trust, the temptation to add words to please everyone’s ear. Perhaps this sounds too fluffy, or maybe there’s not enough focus on character and consequence? How quickly we can get caught up in what is going on around us, and what we think people might be saying, and how we might adjust our lives to please someone else.

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Louder Than The Lies

Recently,  building with Shelter Canada in El Salvador, I noticed one of the family’s relatives had a television in their nearby home. I was immediately reminded of a dear friend of ours who visited a Zulu Chief in South Africa. Upon his arrival he noted that the Chief was watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “terminator” role on television. Even more recently I was having a discussion with someone in my own neighbourhood regarding a prominent Hollywood celebrity who works as a bounty hunter.

All of these observations, and subsequent conversations have something in common. Each occurrence was in the midst of an impoverished reality, people needing homes, food, education, facing life threatening situations. I ached at the thought of the pseudo reality many have chosen to live in. I grieved at the realization millions of souls around the globe are influenced by false truths that offer no real food for their spirit. Many of the messages streaming into our minds are negative and violent, encouraging a tough and calloused approach to life.

A character’s persona, and imaginary world, whether on television, in a video game, music video, or novel – offers the observer an escape from reality, a reality that may be very difficult. This escape is only temporary. Reality is always right around the corner.

What kind of real food do we need to be sharing with one another so our lives have purpose, and meaning, and hope? What kind of truth can we be living out loud to help our loved ones, and neighbours get up every morning and seize the day? With God’s help truth can be louder than the lies.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).