We are in the beginning of the church year. It begins with the season of Advent. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ…as well as the return or second coming of Christ. Churches light candles set in a wreath to count the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. They focus on the Joy, Peace, Hope, and Love…that can only be found in the Child born in the manger.
I think that sometimes we can miss the real meaning of Advent because we are so busy planning for our other Christmas activities. We plan Christmas shopping, tree and decorating, baking, mailing cards, figuring out a Covid-safe family time, etc. These are all good things to do, but not at the expense of focusing on the significance of the birth of our Lord and Savior….and His place in our everyday lives.
The question is… “Do you see Jesus in your life? Do you only see Him on Christmas, or do you see Him in everyday events? Do you see Him in the people that He has placed in your path?”
Martin, the Cobbler, in Leo Tolstoy’s story about a lonely shoemaker who is promised in a dream that Christ will come to visit his shop. The next day Martin rises early, gets his shop ready, prepares a meal and waits.
The only one who showed up in the morning was an old beggar who came by and asked for rest. Martin gave him a room he had prepared for his divine guest.
The only one to show up in the afternoon was an old lady with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asks for food. He gave her the food he had prepared for his divine guest.
As evening came, a lost boy wandered by. Martin took him home, afraid all the while he would miss the Christ. That night in his prayers he asks the Lord, “Where were You? I waited all day for You.”
The Lord said to Martin:
Three times I came to your friendly door,
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was a beggar with bruised feet.
I was the woman you gave to eat.
I was the homeless child on the street.
Do you see Jesus in your everyday events? Do you see him in the faces that pass through your life?
My challenge to you is to watch out! Christ may be closer than you can imagine!
Do you believe that? Do you see each person and every situation you face as an opportunity to see, serve, and share Jesus?
Do you see Jesus in the guy driving the car that cut you off as he tried to squeeze past you as the lane was ending? (Perhaps his child was ill, and he was bringing needed medicine home)
Do you see Jesus in the person who made you feel angry and guilty as they stood at the corner and asked if you can spare some change? (He lost his job due to a covid closing at his workplace, and he was embarrassed and hungry)
Do you see Jesus in “one of those people” that you dislike because of their beliefs, ethnicity, political persuasion, or sexual orientation? (The Gospel is a gift given for all people…to be shared with words and actions)
Do you see Jesus in your neighbor who is isolated and lonely?…You could make their day with a smile, wave, phone call, or bakery at their door.
Do you see Jesus in your prodigal child or annoying co-worker?
Do you see Jesus in those serving on the front lines like nurses, doctors, nursing home workers, group home staff, police, military, store workers, etc.
I would imagine that about now, you are saying, “Dave this devotion is a downer, I’m too busy to be concerned about those people…someone else can help them”. Well…I think God would disagree!
Hebrews 13:16 – “Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.”
Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts to see Jesus…and then to be changed (transformed)…to shine His love on those who cross our path. You may be the answer to their prayers.
St. Michael’s had always been a very wealthy church. Its 300 members usually gave a combined annual offering of over one million dollars, because they could afford to.
Over the years, however, the neighborhood around the beautiful old church began to change. Immigrants flocked into the area, changing the complexion of the community. Steel bars replaced the welcome signs in the store windows. Homeless people could be found wandering the sidewalks. The changes made some members of St. Michael’s very uncomfortable. They usually tried to avoid that part of town except on Sundays.
One Sunday, shortly after a young associate priest had joined the church staff, the church members gathered after the morning service for coffee and pastries. In the spring months, they loved to gather in the flower garden outside the church.
As the elegantly dressed worshipers sipped coffee and chatted in the garden, a homeless man shuffled in off the street. He entered the garden gate without looking at anyone…but all eyed\s were on him. He quietly walked over to the table where the expensive pastries were displayed on fancy silver trays. He picked one up, bit into it, keeping his eyes closed.
Then he reached for a second one and placed it in his coat pocket. Moving slowly and trying not to be noticed, he placed another pastry in his pocket.
The garden was abuzz with whispers! Finally, one woman walked over to the new priest and said, “Well do something!”
Still feeling a little awkward in his new position, the young priest handed his coffee cup to the woman, walked over to the table, stood next to the homeless man. He then reached under the table, where the empty pastry boxes were stored. He then picked us one of the silver trays loaded with pastries and emptied them into the box. He did the same thing with a second tray of expensive goodies. He closed the lids and handed them to the man.
“We are here every Sunday,” the priest said. The man smiled at the priest, cradled the boxes in his arms, and shuffled quietly out of the garden and down the street.
The priest returned to his cup of coffee, smiled at the woman, and then said, “That’s what you meant when you said to do something, wasn’t it?”
What would you have done if you were there that day?
How do you think Jesus felt about those whispering that day…about what the priest did?
I think Jesus looks at the homeless, the weak, the sick, the lonely, the anxious and depressed, those in fear and pain…..and says to us “well, do something about it!”
As we focus on Jesus’ birth and His life here on earth, you can bet He would be first in line “to do something.”
But then remember Jesus is here in the flesh. That’s what His church is all about! That’s what you are to be all about! You are to be His hands and feet to a hurting world.
So, here is your mission for the week (and always):
Take time this Advent to prepare your heart for the coming Savior. Pray, read God’s Word, worship, volunteer. (go to royred.org for information, resources, worship, and other opportunities to “do something”)
Look at each person as if they were Jesus. Ask yourself “how can I help them physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially”
Pray for God to help you see all people (even those you don’t like) as children of God.