Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent Conspiracy IV: Love All

Love is patient,
It’s a cold harsh world.
Love is kind.
It's a dog eat dog world.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
You get stabbed in the back.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I'm so lonely.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
And sad and angry.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

From a Christmas Party this past week: Family Feud, The Top Ten Things @ Christmas. The Nativity: NO! Buzz! The baby Jesus. NO! Buzz!

What got the top billing? How about Gingerbread houses, Santa, Christmas trees and candy canes!

The frustration with the consumer agenda at Christmas is very widespread. I came accross this blog post serendipitously yesterday:

I really really hate the way retailers put out Christmas merchandise, decorations, and other holiday paraphernalia two months (in some case—Bloomingdale’s, Crate & Barrel—three months) before the freaking holiday. I was in line today at Peet’s coffee, surrounded by gingerbread latte advertisements and peppermint bark available to purchase, and I thought, “Holy! I forgot to call my Mom on Thanksgiving! Oh wait. It didn’t happen yet.”

It so obvious that the holiday is about the promotion of consumerism and the exploitation of the unsuspecting Los Angeleno (we only have informed people here in San Francisco). Why? It's so upsetting to me. Really. I mean, truth be told, I am not immune. Already the windows on Fillmore Street with the flocked trees and cashmere scarves make me smile. But, by the time actual Christmas rolls around. I will surely be sick of it.

Have you ever been disappointed on Christmas day? I have. Typically (although maybe not this year), I go down to my Grandmother's house in Ventura County with palm trees and balmy weather. We have dinners and parties, bake and eat, shop and drink. It's a roaring good time. That is until Christmas day arrives. We wake up, not nearly as enthusiastically as we did when I was a child, then we open gifts, then we watch my uncle watch football. It seems so anticlimactic. With all the decorations everywhere, I expect a block party in front of my house to celebrate, well, not Jesus (not that I would prefer to celebrate Jesus).

Basically I'm upset because money-grubbing "retailers" are ruining my holidays. And even if you write them letters, they still won't listen to you. Because they know that some other dumb American lemming will waltz in and buy their 50-dollar glitter candles. Wes, a 25-year-old gay man in San Francisco

This is week four of our Advent Conspiracy: Restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.

Luke 10:30-37
Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'

"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"

"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, "Go and do the same."

How do we engage, love and value people?

It all seems possible and good in our heads and then we get with people and something goes awry…

“People will regularly disappoint us. If our hearts aren’t ready for this, we’ll speak only with angry exasperation, our negative words tearing down people for their humanness, instead of using our tongues to cultivate redemptive transformation.” Gary Thomas

Our hearts have to be ready. Advent is about preparing our heart for Jesus. We really do need Him!

We all have rough days, quite often near Christmas. Here is a proven scientific stress management technique recommended in all the latest and best psychological journals. The amazing thing is that it really does work.

1. Picture yourself lying on your stomach on a warm rock that hangs out over a crystal clear stream.
2. Picture yourself with both your hands dangling in the cool running water.
3. The birds are gently singing in the cool mountain air.
4. Nobody else knows of your secret place.
5. You are in absolute total seclusion from that hectic place we call the world.
6. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
7. The water is so crystal clear that you can easily make out the face of the person you are holding underwater.

See? It really does work. You’re smiling already…

We all need the love of Jesus in our lives so that it can flow out to others that we come around.

There are two main forms of relational sin: attack & withdrawal, also known as silence & violence. The robbers were the epitome of attackers. Quite often we just use words to cut and wound instead. The Priest and the Levite were the withdrawers: I am distancing myself from you. They went by on the other side. Compassion is the opposite of attack & withdrawal.

Compassion even sees beyond social categories & societal conventions. The Jews hated the Samaritan. A Serb and a Croat. A Catholic & militant protestant in Northern Ireland.

Quite often we find our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend is the opposite of our natural pattern. As a withdrawer we get an attacker as a partner or vice versa! This can create quite a dance!

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and themselves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism which is fun to write and to read, but the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so”. The impossible to please food connoisseur in Ratatouille.

‘Shattered social conventions’ is a mark of the church.

Jesus taught this and he modeled it, too.

Peter the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector (Roman collaborator). Women were included. Peter was welcomed and restored by Jesus after his rejection. A doubting Thomas was invited in.

James 1:27- 2:10
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

My brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Breaking through tolerance (putting up with each other) & embracing love is what's happening. Embracing the people Christians love to hate.

Self looks out for self. Love looks out for others. Seeing God for Others is genuine love.

Love is a Discipline of Celebration. Christmas is a celebration of love because as U2 puts it, When Love Comes To Town I'm Going To Catch That Train!

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

"There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what we want. The other is getting it." Oscar Wilde

Worship More.

"The main emotion of the adult American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment." John Cheever

Spend Less.

Give More.

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." G.K. Chesterton

Love All.
An experience of the heart that we can trust.


Post a Comment

<< Home