Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent Reflections-part 2

Through this Advent season I have experienced renewed wonder in my Lord, increased anticipation for His Kingdom, and a resolve to be about His mission. While my soul has been nurtured this season, I have also been deeply troubled. As I write this, temperatures in the Denver Metro area are dipping below zero and numerous sons and daughters of God have nowhere to lay there heads, much like their Savior who was regulated to a feeding trough for His 'grand' arrival. These people need desperately to feel the warmth of a bed, the hand of a friend, and the embrace of their Father. As compassion stirs my heart and I am reminded of THE greatest commandment "love your neighbor as yourself," I am convinced that there must be something I can do. But reason rebuts my heart and asks "what can I really do? I hardly make enough to live as it is, my wife and I share a pair of gloves, and Lord knows I'm just one person, in the face of hundreds. The challenge is just so overwhelming. " Aw, but as Pascal said, "the heart has its reasons of which reason knows not."

But there is a problem: I am selfish. I like having a computer, new books, and other luxuries that I've convinced myself are necessities. And I know better, but I keep doing what I hate and not doing what I desire. I feel the depth of Paul's exclamation in Romans 7, "Oh, wretched man that I am!"

I'm haunted by a scene near the end of Schindler's List, the story of Oskar Schindler, a man who saved the lives of over 1,100 Polish Jews by employing them in his factory during the Holocaust. After the war ends, Schindler looks at his lapel pin and realizes that it could have afforded him one more life. He is grief stricken at his selfishness dropping to his knees, weeping, muttering 'one more, one more..." This from the very man who literally risked his life for years in the effort to protect his fellow man. Could I ever be that compassionate, that sacrificial, that humble? Could I look into the least of these my brothers and sisters and see the face of Christ? Lord, I hope so; have mercy on me!

Yet, Paul reminds us that our wretchedness is not the end of the story. We must press on in the grace of our Savior, knowing He is guiding and if that be so we may rejoice indeed! So, with grace in hand and Christ in the lead how do we address the objections of our reason, the questioning of whether or not we can truly make a difference?

Henri Nouwen has said, "Though we want to make all our time, time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time for God and Him alone." I believe this applies to our resources as well. So may we start down the path of truly loving our neighbor one step at a time.

So what is that first step this Advent? For many of us it may be a long-overdue prayer to the lover of our souls. But as we move out from that, there are beautifully tangible ways to manifest the Kingdom; to be about Christ's business of lifting the oppressed, feeding the needy, and freeing the captive. Sites like adventconspiracy have great suggestions. A wonderful ministry helping those here in downtown Denver is the denver rescue mission. But my favorite Advent charitys are ones like worldvision and heifer international where you can buy goats or pigs or chickens helping families in need around the world become self-sustainable. I have been deeply moved by the following testimony of young Beatrice Biira from Uganda

"It was a Sunday when my mother told me we were going to get a goat which
would give us milk. We were already prepared for the goat. We
planted grass and built its house. We stood near the road singing, dancing
and clapping waiting for the goats. We saw a big lorry coming full of fat,
healthy, good looking goats. Then my mother was given one brown goat and we
took it home. We named her 'Mugisa' (means luck). We gave her grass
and clean water and mineral salt."

"About two months later our goat gave birth to two male kids. My
mother milked Mugisa and got four liters of milk a day. Time passed, our
kids grew, and mummy sold them and got a lot of money - $200! We had never
received so much money. We built a very good house roofed with iron
sheets. Before that we used to lie in a grass thatched house. There
was also money to send me to school.'

"I was happy to go to school. Mummy bought for me a new blue pinafore
and a yellow blouse as my uniform. She also bought books and
pencils. I polished my shoes and I cut my fingernails short. I was
so very happy that night. I was in my bed wide awake peeping through the
ventilators, waiting for morning to come. I was first to wake up. I bathed, brushed my teeth, combed my hair and put on my uniform. I took a cup of tea with milk from Mugisa."

"It was the best day in my life!"

"I wish to send a special thanks to you all, the donors who send farm animals
around the world to help needy and hungry ones - especially children like
me. This project has surely helped me and my family. Thank you very
much for this work you are doing. Finally, I wish you all God's blessings
to help more children in need."

Truly it is more blessed to give than to receive. May this Christmas truly embody these words of our Savior.

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