Preparing for Christmas

In Luke 3:3 John the Baptist proclaims what I believe to be an important Christmas message that of hope and forgiveness. As family members celebrate with one another all over the world whatever differences they may have they need to be put aside so everyone can celebrate this great day. So, what must be done to prepare?

John goes on to say “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Luke, 3:4. I would consider when facing an encounter of needing to interact with people who challenge you the last thing that should occupy my mind is another possible conflict. I think if I go on with the mindset there are going to be issues then I miss out on the opportunity to positively engage not only in the celebration but with the people who make the occasion enjoyable. Thus, the first part of my Christmas preparation is having an affirmative mindset.

“And the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth.” Luke 3:5 Therefore, what do I bring to the table when I arrive at the celebration? It is not only the delicious food and worthwhile presents I bring that enhance the atmosphere but also the welcome greeting, listening and engaging in the conversation and the final goodbye. Hence, make each person feel like they are part of the celebration.

“And all people will see God’s salvation.” Luke 3:6. That Jesus’ birth is celebrated by people all over the world and is underpinned by a message of hope and forgiveness. So, I reflect on those words when I celebrate Christmas with my family. Thus, realising Christmas is more than just the food and presents it is the meaning that we should aspire today everyday of our lives.

A Leap of Faith leads to fulfilling a Need

In Luke, 18:35-43 we have the story of the Blind Beggar who despite being asked by the crowd to be quiet persists in calling out to Jesus to ask for mercy.

“Son of David have mercy on me.” Luke, 18:39.

The inspiration I gain from the narrative of “Jesus heals a Blind Beggar near Jericho” is not only the courage and persistence of the blind beggar to ask for a healing but also Jesus despite his busyness displayed a willingness to help.

So, how does the blind beggar motivate me in my life? Well he seizes the opportunity. I wonder how many times in my life have I regretted not taking the opportunities I have been offered. When I think back, I hid behind the excuses of it wasn’t for me, not the right time or just I am happy at the moment. God is asking us to be courageous people not risk aversive.

Such a person was Jesus. Now Jesus could have ignored the voice and went on his way but instead he wanted to know who was crying out to him. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” To which the blind beggar asks, “Lord let me see you again.” Luke, 18:42. Immediately, Jesus responds, “Receive your sight your faith has saved you.” Luke, 18:43. Therefore, Jesus saw a need and acted upon it because he had the capacity to help. Thus, Jesus challenges me not to walk past situations but to lend assistance wherever possible.

Ultimately, I continue Christ’s mission giving of my time and energy to assist others in their lives. Furthermore, to act when offered the chance  and to give guidance to others when I can. Maybe in those situations I am actually stirring the faith of others and bringing them closer to God.

Giving All

In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus tells the story of a poor widow that puts all the money she has to live on into the Church treasury. When I read this story, I continually reflect on why did the poor widow contribute so selflessly?

My reflection begins with trying to define the character traits of the widow through her generous act. Firstly, I believe her kind act demonstrates humility. A modesty that exhibits that by giving all her money she is focussed on contributing to Jesus’ mission and doing God’s will. Hence, the widow’s action causes me to reflect on how often I fail to let go of what is important which compromises my desire to act selflessly.

Secondly, the widow trusts in the process because of utmost belief that God will provide. Her faith is so unswerving that she does not question God’s providence. How often do I allow doubts to creep into my mind when circumstances force me into positions that take me out of my comfort zone? Sometimes when faced with such dilemmas I react instinctively instead of taking a step back and seeking God’s assistance.

Finally, I believe we can all learn from the widow’s strong faith. Her generosity of heart gives her a freedom and happiness that allows her to put in the two copper coins without hesitation not thinking about the hardship that they may cause to her quality of life. For me it is the constant struggle of finding a balance between the material and the spiritual needs in my life. However, I am continually inspired by the poor widow to give all I have to support others through my words and actions. Furthermore, she models a faith that trusts in God in all situations without wavering a character strength that I must continue to develop daily.

Walking on Water

When we encourage others when encountering challenging situations to Trust in the Lord what are really saying? In Matthew 14:22-34 we read about the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter trying to emulate him. Unfortunately, Peter’s attempt to walk on water fails. I believe the key to Peter failing encompasses the meaning of placing our trust in the Lord.

I would argue that the circumstances that led up to Peter trying to walk on water planted the self-doubt in his mind. Jesus asked the disciples to go ahead of him in the boat while he dismissed the crowd. Jesus, then was unable to make it back to the boat and the disciples did not see him again until he was walking on the lake. At first, they thought they saw a ghost, but Jesus reassured them saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew:14-27) Peter responded taking a leap of faith by getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus however, when the wind blew a gale he became afraid and started to sink. I would consider that when any semblance of trepidation enters our mind it prevents us from completely carrying out our objectives to our full capabilities. Hence, we are selling ourselves short and not backing ourselves in to achieve our goals the way that we would like to have initially.

Furthermore, I believe Trust in the Lord reveals itself in our relationship with other people. To accomplish what we need to do in our everyday lives we must rely on others to help and guide us along the way.I would deem that when we put ourselves in a situation we have no control over if uncertainty creeps in we lose focus and become compromised which usually ends up with us being unsuccessful. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew:14-30) In my life however with my family, good friends and work colleagues there is always someone willing to help. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew:14-31) Likewise, we can pray to God to overcome the challenges we face and trust that he can assist us through these times.

Moreover, by trusting in our own abilities and support from our family, friends and work colleagues I would argue that this manifest itself in us Trusting in the Lord. Additionally, the Lord has utilised our knowledge and skills and those of our family, friends and work colleagues to bring glory to his kingdom.

Modern Day Saints

Sometimes you meet people in life and you think to yourself they are Modern-Day Saints. The impression they make on your life is profound because what they do doesn’t require thanks; rather they gain appreciation of how they have helped in some way. One person who met that selflessness in my life that I had the privilege to know was my work colleague, Raelene.

So, what makes a Modern-Day Saint? I believe it is a person who sees a need and assists without being asked. Raelene if she saw a need she would go out of her way to assist you.

For me it was washing the church corporal, a white small tablecloth & the sanctifier, small finger towels when they receive wine stains after masses. I never asked her to do it, she just offered; such was the extent of her kindness.

Furthermore, a Modern-Day Saint extends aid beyond work needs without looking to be affirmed. When I told Raelene about my son, Simon and how he ripped so many of his clothes she gave me some of her two sons’ clothes. Such generosity wasn’t done as a grand gesture but a recognition that her assistance would bring joy to others. In this case, my son, Simon and my family has allowed us to spend money for Simon on his other requirements and improve his quality of life.

Moreover, a Modern-Day Saint would make you feel genuinely comfortable in their presence. Every time I saw her, she would always enquire how my family and I were going. She made you feel important when engaging in conversation with you and her laughter would fill a room. Additionally, she would strongly share her ideas and opinions with you but it was always positive and the emphasis placed on the best possible outcome for all.

In Matthew 6:21 Jesus says, “Forwhere your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”When I think about Raelene I reflect that her treasure was helping others to achieve the best possible outcomes and she gave that assistance with all her heart every day of her wonderful life.

Treasures in Heaven

In Matthew 6:19 Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.   Hence, the call for all people everywhere to aspire not to the trappings of material wealth and power but to something greater. So, what is this greater treasure we need to desire?

 Jesus answers, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Thus, Jesus is implying that the only permanent treasures are those you can store up for heaven.  Therefore, where do we find these treasures we can store in Heaven?

The place that I find these treasures is in my personal relationships with other people I encounter.  From my family and friends to my work colleagues, students and parents the key is my personal interaction and how I witness the gospel message that Jesus proclaimed. Furthermore, daily reflecting on my words and actions through prayer and scripture and how they resonate with gospel values which underpinned Jesus’s teachings. Consequently, I use these key indicators to build a platform for my store of treasures.

Jesus also defines another way of storing my treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 6:21. The question I have is do my interactions with others, my work and passions demonstrate that I am living the Gospel?  Now, if the answer to that question is yes then I am storing my treasures in heaven. Nevertheless, I believe my storing of treasures in heaven is continuing to evolve and remains a work in progress.                                                         

Jesus the Bread of Life

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51. So how do we eat the bread of life?

I believe I nourish the bread of life with my family when I share table fellowship with them. The general chatter, the laughter and the challenging issues we converse with each other about our everyday life, provides a listening ear, some insight and wisdom and trust. Thus, feeding the positive relationships which encourage us to be confident in our words and actions daily.

Moreover, my friends who nourish my self-esteem. They are with me sharing my passions and interests which delights me and makes those experiences all the more special.  They are also with me in the hard times coming to visit me with a word or gift that makes me feel better about the situation. No matter what, I can always trust them whether I chat about the challenges I face ahead to the successes that I have achieved. It is always good to know they are there consoling me when I feel frustrated and building me up when I do well.

Finally, I am nourished by my Church Community. I pray and celebrate my faith through listening to the word, eating the bread and drinking the wine that sustains me for the week ahead. It is great to rejoice in your faith with other people who have similar beliefs. Additionally, it is wonderful to know that I worship a God who loves me unconditionally, Jesus his son, who sacrificed his life for all humanity and a Spirit that inspires me to use my gifts to continue proclaiming the Gospel.

There is always Purpose

In John 6:26, Jesus says, to the Crowd, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves.” Sometimes, I think we can become consumed by the experience and how it relates to us personally rather than reflecting on the purpose of the words and actions of others and the events that occurred. In this case the Crowd inferred by Jesus were hoping to be physically gratified but what Jesus was offering went beyond that.

 So, the question is, was the Crowd really being superficial or were they there because they believed Jesus would proclaim a message l that when making significant choices would provide them with a greater purpose in lives?  Also, is it that we always look for good experiences to sustain us? I often feel we learn more from the challenges we experience each day than doing the things we want to do. I believe I give more of myself when faced with difficulties. Additionally, I call on others to assist me to overcome these issues. Hence, I by continuing to make the hard choices and with the help of key people in my life I can achieve positive outcomes as they give meaning and purpose to my life.

 

Moreover, as Jesus says do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” John 6:27. Thus, there is more to life than material items that eventually have passed their used by date. Granted, they can bring us joy but it is only in the short term because eventually you want to upgrade to the latest model. Therefore, I can’t be seduced into allowing my meaning and purpose of life to be driven by attaining these material items. However, Jesus offers us a meaning and a purpose through his Gospel values that give us spiritual food that will not only sustain us in this life but the next.

Jesus a role model for empathy & understanding.

In Mark 5:21-34 we read the Narrative of a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and despite seeking help from numerous doctors she was unable to find a cure. In fact, her condition had deteriorated. So, when finding out that Jesus was coming to her town she believed that if she was able to touch his cloak she could be cured. My question is what led her to this belief and why she did not just ask Jesus personally for a healing?

Firstly, I am sure that the woman had heard about Jesus’ power to heal people when nobody else could. So, the woman knew it was her last opportunity to be cured and whatever the outcome she had given it her best shot.  Ultimately, upon touching Jesus’ clothes she was immediately healed from her bleeding.

Secondly, Jesus asks “Who touched my clothes?” Mark 5:31 He asks the question not because he is angry that someone had the temerity to touch him but he wants to know who and why they touched him. Immediately, the woman is fearful that Jesus will rebuke her however Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34 Thus, Jesus reassures her she did the right thing by seeking a healing and it was her faith that relieved her suffering.

Finally, it is Jesus’ empathy and understanding that makes the woman’s healing whole. The woman’s courage to grasp the opportunity for a healing changes to one of fear and trembling when Jesus asks who touched my clothes. However, it is Jesus’ empathy and understanding that wins the day. For it was not through touching Jesus’ clothes that healed the woman but her faith. Hence, when  faced with challenging situations  we need the courage to express our faith and it is there we find a empathetic and understanding Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing in Faith

In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus tells a parable about a mustard seed which grows into a large tree where even birds come to nest in it.

 Today, this parable could describe our modern day Christian Church. Jesus through his words and actions empowered his disciples to continue his mission and from there inspired by the message of the Gospel churches were built throughout the world.

 At last count there were 2.3 billion Christians spread across different nations globally.  That is 31% of the world’s population. How incredible that just from one man, Jesus, his twelve apostles and the early Christian Communities that from their words and actions Christianity is the largest religion in world today.

 However, like the mustard seed for Christian Communities to grow they must be welcoming and inviting places of worship where positive relationships are built and there is an opportunity for everyone to participate. A church that allows everyone no matter what age to express their faith and feel like they have a sense of ownership within that community. Thus, the Christian Church gives a sense of identity to each individual and place where they belong.

 Hence, for the Christian Church to continue each  Community throughout the world must be a place where each person is supported to be who they are and encouraged to share their faith with others. I believe that it is through such vibrant Communities that like the mustard seed that grows into a tree I can develop my faith and grow closer to God. Furthermore, like the birds nesting in the trees I can invite others to come and share their faith  and build the Christian Community.