Monday, December 27, 2010

God With Us

Of all the images that surface this time of year, my favourite is the nativity. I love nativity scenes, and the Christmas Story. I love thinking about that time, when Mary gave birth to Jesus; she knew He was special and not just any baby. The angel had come to her and explained what His role would be:“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:31-32)
Mary’s husband Joseph also had an angelic visitation, in a dream. The angel spoke to reassure him that he should proceed with his marriage to Mary:“She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 2: 21)
The prophet Isaiah spoke also of Jesus, foretelling His birth: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God with us)” Isaiah 7:14
Imagine, God coming to us in the form of a tiny baby! But the story does not end at that stable in Bethlehem. We love to gaze on that scene, on baby Jesus, so sweet and helpless. But that babe grew up; a man, yet fully God. He walked with humankind, and experienced life as they did. He was Almighty God, yet left the glory of that position to show us what God is like. Not only that, but He gave His own life in payment for the sins of the world.

We love the warm fuzzies we get when we decorate, hang pretty lights, and listen to Christmas Carols. But there is so much more to the Christmas Story than the babe and the shepherds and the wise men. That baby became a man, died for us, and is now alive in Heaven. He was born, not to give us a reason for a Christmas season, but to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. So when you see him there in the manger, fast forward to our ultimate cause for celebration, God’s great love gift to us: He came to die, so that we might have life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Places of Worship

For the past several years, my husband and I have been "browsing" the internet in search of a new home. We have been doing so in a semi-serious kind of way, kind of waiting for the "perfect" price, place, and timing. Hasn't happened yet.

Today while I was having a quick peek at the MLS site we frequent, I noticed that they have some new tools added to the mapping feature. You can highlight schools, stores, etc. that are in the area of each particular property. One of the tools stood out for me; it was labeled "Places of Worship".

I haven't been "attending a church" for over two and a half years, and during that time have done a huge shift in regards to my understanding of church, worship, and being a Christian. So this label just struck me as being somewhat strange.

Last night, hubbie and I watched an episode of a sitcom. In it, a couple attended church, a Catholic mass, somewhat reluctantly. They filed in with the rest of the congregants, and dutifully stood, sat, knelt, and prayed as instructed. I was reminded of my days in the Catholic church, and also the time I spent in Evangelical churches. I was reminded of the many times I was there reluctantly, only going because it was the right and acceptable thing to do. I thought of the millions of folks who attend church, maybe weekly, or monthly, or only at Christmas and Easter, and consider that because they spent time in the building, they have "worshipped" God.

It's crazy, isn't it, to think that we need buildings, and services, and clergy, and worship teams, to worship God? That He expects us to construct and support and pour time, money and energy into systems and programs and buildings in a frenzy of religious activity and bureaucracy? That we have to leave our homes, get dressed up and drive to a special building and listen to a special man speak in order to fulfill His command to "not forsake the assembling together" of ourselves? Didn't Jesus tell the Samaratin woman (John 4) that a time was coming when they would neither worship at a certain city or mountain, but that God wanted those who would worship "in Spirit and in truth"?

In Romans Chapter Twelve, verse one, Paul instructs: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." He meant that our entire lives, all that we do, is to be done as a sacrifice of worship to God. That our "raison d'etre" is to live by and for God. Every motive and action is for His sake, acknowledging our dependence and need of Him for all things. For His glory. Twenty four/seven. Not for a couple of hours each week, standing or sitting mutely in a pew, following an order of service. That is not the worship that God desires.

I so wish that I could say that my heart is in an attitude of obedience and worship all the time. That won't happen until I get to heaven, because I am still a fallen sinner. But I thank God that He has set me free to worship Him wherever I am. That I am not still held captive by the lie that if I miss Mass on a Sunday, or Christmas Day, that it is a Mortal Sin and I will go to Hell if I don't confess it to a priest at Confession. That I don't have to be at every "service" that my church offers in an effort to prove to God, or others, how much I love Him. That I now meet with brothers and sisters in our homes to share our hearts, to edify one another, and to each give a personal testimony of praise to the One Who does not live in a building, but in each of our hearts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Moveable Mess, or, In the Meantime......

Nine years ago my hubbie and I downsized to a tidy little two bedroom bungalow. The kids had grown and gone, so we thought it was time to find something smaller with less upkeep. It was a good idea, but we now find ourselves a bit cramped.

Our former house had a finished attic which hubbie used as his art studio. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor, then kitchen, living room, den, family room and bathroom on the main floor. The basement was unfinished, but great for hiding "stuff" and doing laundry. There was also a single car garage which we usually kept full of more "stuff".

Now we have kitchen, living room, dining room, two small bedrooms, bathroom and a family room addition which hubbie has marked as "his territory". (I get to sit in there sometimes; it is the best room in the house, lots of natural light). The basement is unfinished, and there is also a garage. One of the bedrooms has a bunk bed (double bed on the bottom, single on the top) which is great for when grandkids sleep over. The room is about ten by ten, which doesn't leave much space left over. It is the room that I keep trying to make "mine" where I can sew, write, read, make jewellry, and fill with all my own personal "stuff", like books and yarn and fabric etc. etc. Although the picture above isn't of my room, it does bear a striking resemblance.

I keep trying to find that space where I can roost, with all my stuff around me, and create, or just be. It hasn't happened. My home is dotted with piles of books, papers, fabric, yarn, cd's and tapes. Whenever I have company, the dining room table gets cleared off and my piles get relocated into the spare room. I call it my "moveable mess".

Today, I am having another go at the spare room. Hubbie is going to move the filing cabinet there from the basement, and once again, I will try to get myself organized. I might even set my sewing machine up on the little desk in there. I'll have to deal with a couple of bins full of papers etc. first. There is also a computer in there, and I hope to purchase a new printer to go along with it.

Hubbie has promised to make me a room in the basement. But I don't know when this might actually occur, so in the meantime, I'm doing the best I can with what I have. My new little room will be (God willing) bright and warm and cozy, and will have shelves and a work table and I will be able to leave things set up there. We have also tossed around the idea of finishing our little attic, and have spent many hours on the Internet MLS site, looking for our perfect house in the country. But all must be in God's timing.

It's like that for us believers, I think. As "aliens" here on earth, we have to "make do" with the fallen world we live in, and the fallen selves that we are. Our made alive spirits yearn for that perfect place, and that perfect, sin free self that is promised at our final glorification. In the meantime, we endure temptation, frustration, and a heavenly homesickness that cannot be described, only experienced. We so look forward to the day when we will finally be "home", forever with our Lord, and living that perfect, eternal life that we were created for.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22,23)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Loaf of Bread, A Bottle of Wine.....

Last night I went to my work Christmas Dinner. It was at a very nice restaurant, and the menu was excellent. I had potato leek soup, then the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding. Delicious. There were also some mouth watering home made rolls. Had a couple of those too. As is often the case when we women get together, there was much talk about what foods we enjoyed preparing and eating. The rolls got us to talking about how much we love bread. We came to the conclusion that a very satisfying repast would be simple: a loaf of delicious home made bread, some good cheese, and a bottle of wine. Not an original thought, I realize. But a tried and true idea, nonetheless.

Tonight I met with my home church group for a meal and fellowship. We had tacos, and a rice and bean salad. Simple fare, but much enjoyed. I have noticed that whenever we get together, and no matter what we eat, the whole experience is inevitably rich. It is a fellowship meal, and the simple act of sharing food somehow becomes elevated to a spiritual experience. Which is entirely Biblical.

Recently, I have been listening to a teaching series on "Communion" by Beresford Job. This morning I listened while busy in the kitchen. He talked about how the Lord's Supper is not merely about our relationship with God, but also our relationship with one another. We eat from the same loaf, and drink from the same cup, and are of one body, the Body of Christ. Our fellowship is in Him, and with one another. When our relationship with any of our brothers and sisters is blocked by sin or unforgiveness, then our relationship with God is also blocked. When our relationships are pure and unhindered by sin, then the fellowship and meal is sweet indeed. In my experience, it becomes sweeter all the time.

While Jesus was eating His last supper with the disciples, He said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when He drank it with them in His Father's kingdom. Ah, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Now that will be a feast of all feasts. How sweet will be the fellowship then, and the meal beyond description. But if there will be only bread, and cheese, and will still be the best meal ever. And I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I thank God for the fellowship we can have around the Lamb of God, every time we get together.