Whatever is Pure - Christmas 2010
Romans 15:2, 5-7 (NRSV)
Every weekend during the late seventies, I would join with dozens of young believers, musicians and seekers who would find their way into the "Burning Bush" coffee house that was in the basement of an inner city church. I developed close friendships with many people there, some of who were disadvantaged street folk. As I worked in the downtown core, I'd keep my eye out for my friends during my lunch break but they were hard to find unless they wanted to be found. It was always a joy when I would cross the path of one woman in particular. Amelia had an infinite amount of patience with me and was always gracious, even in the throes of her spiraling addiction.
In my innocence, I would offer to take poor hung over Amelia for lunch and as I loved Chinese food, it never dawned on me that she might not share the same affection. I cannot fathom how she managed to choke down greasy western-style fried rice and doughy deep fried chicken balls smothered in a cloyingly sweet pineapple sauce. She never complained. I'd usually buy her a pack of smokes on our way back to my office tower at her request and she'd promise she'd see me at the coffee house. It never dawned on me that our friendship was unusual, she was just a friend, a friend who'd share lunch with me now and again.
Over the years, I lost touch with Amelia but I stumbled across her one afternoon in the city I now live. I recognized her immediately, although her face bore a lot more scars and her nose had been broken more than once over the years. Unfortunately, she had not broken free from her addiction and as I approached her, I fought the urge to hold my breath as the scent of her unwashed clothes and stale beer threatened to turn my stomach. When I greeted her by name, she looked at me with suspicion, not remembering me. I didn't blame her, I have changed a lot over the years as well. She asked me for a smoke, I told her I didn't have any smokes on me and ruefully admitted with an apologetic smile that I was allergic to them. Something in my smile triggered a hazy memory for her and she smiled back, reaching for my hand, then squeezing it gently. "It's ok, Sister". Ever the gracious one! As I was late for an important appointment, our reunion was brief.
As I continued on my way, I realized our little encounter had taken place within a few feet of a busy bus stop. I thought that a few of those waiting at the stop looked relieved that I, the disabled lady with the cane and the unsteady balance, had somehow escaped unscathed from my encounter with a 'street' person. It broke my heart. You see, they didn't see my Amelia the way I did. They saw an alcoholic panhandling on the street. I saw the child of God I knew Amelia to be. I could only see the truth because at one point in my life I had dared to draw close enough so God could show me the treasure that Amelia was to Him.
I must confess that as I have grown older, I have grown more cautious. I routinely shy away from the homeless in my neighbourhood unless they prove themselves harmless to me, first. Although there is a small minority of aggressive and dangerous panhandlers who frequent my area of town, the vast majority are simply human beings who have lost their way and have no idea of how to find their way back. God brought Amelia back to mind as I read the above passage from Romans as she modeled that scripture to me many years ago. I pray that God will once again move me past my excessive cautiousness so that I can pass on the truths I learned from a dear friend over a plate of greasy fried rice.
"Really want to feed a homeless person for the holiday? Take one home, sit them at table with family and friends, make him Human again" Joseph2dogs - Christian blogger, twitterer, homeless and living on the streets.
Father, as we enter into Advent, I ask that you would come as Emmanuel to the Amelias and Katherines, the Joes and Bobs of this world. I ask that you'd reveal yourself to us in our pain, our sin and our struggles, no matter what our life circumstances might be. I pray for your freedom to come to all your children, no matter what our socioeconomic standing. We all desperately need Emmanuel, God with us. Remove the blinders from our eyes so we can see past the addictions, the chaos and the brokenness of those to whom we would rather just walk past and be on our way. Give us eyes to see those who hide behind a facade of a respectable lifestyle but who hide in the hopes that someone will come and bring them to a place of freedom. Give us your eyes so we can see the hearts of the ones you have asked us to welcome in your name.
Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
Do Whatever is Pure
Pure: (1) Free from moral defilement or quilt; hence, innocent; guileless; chaste -- when applied to persons. (2) Free from that which harms, vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; genuine; real; perfect; -- when applied to things and actions.
In the light of Philippians 4:8, I invite you to think of the pure love of God as we enter into the holiday season. The love of a God who willingly sent His Son to the cross to die for the sins of the world – sins that He did not commit. God’s pure love extended towards us, took the place of our wrongdoings and Jesus said to Hs Father, "I will pay the price. I will become their redemption. Use me Father, to pay the price that must be paid for the sins of the world. I will humble myself and become poor so that they might become rich. I will think it not robbery to walk amongst them and be touched by their infirmities, tempted like they are and yet I not sin. I will go to show them pure love."
1 Corinthians 13 speaks of the kind of pure love that God wants us to walk in. That is the kind of love that would cause a Father to give His only begotten Son so that He can gain many sons and daughters.
Statistics say that around the holiday seasons, suicide and depression are magnified, because of loneliness. Therefore this is a time to show that pure love to others. It's a time to be sensitive to the needs of others around us;to the elderly, to those that mourn.
We can chose to smile at the stranger in our midst, we can encourage someone who walks in depression. By baking cookies for disadvantaged children or babysitting for a single mother who desperately needs time for herself, we extend that love.
As the holiday season takes on full steam, what would you be willing to do in order to extend his pure love to others? Would you be willing to walk the extra mile with your brother or sister? Would you embrace the lonely, the homeless ones? Would you extend hospitality toward a lonely and single person to your home for a meal? Would you consider adopting a family for the season?
It is time for us to examine ourselves and not only do the right thing, but give with purity and give out of the joy in our hearts. I'd encourage you to smile as you walk down the street – it just may cause someone else to smile also. May you give God's best to all those around you.
Prayer: Father, in the name of Your Precious Son Jesus, I thank You for this holiday season. I thank You that your "pure" love is shed abroad in our hearts. I lift up those who are heartbroken during this time of the year and don’t have a home to go to for family fun and fellowship. May we remember how God extended His hand to us and may we extend his grace to others. Amen
Susie bounced from her Papa's lap over to Katja. "The Weinachtsmann is coming tonight, Katja. See the pretty plates. One plate for Katja and one plate for Susie."
She dashed over to the plank table, reached up, took a plate down, and carried it to her sister. "See, this is Katja's plate."
Katja’s alert eyes were caught by the bright, hand painted flowers on the plate and she reached up to grab it, but Susie lifted it high, rescuing it just in time to prevent an accident.
"No, no, Katja, the plate goes on the table, like this." She trotted over and returned the plate to its proper place. "Tonight, the Weinachtsmann comes. Tomorrow, Katja's and Susie's plates will be filled with candies. Katja like candy?" She turned to her father. "Papa, tell Katja about the Weinachtsmann."
Papa shook his head and his eyes laughed, "It seems to me, Suschen, you have done a very good job of that, yourself. If our deaf Katja could hear, even a little, she would by this time know all there is to know about the Weinachtsmann. And now, my little Quachbase (chatter box), it is time for two little girls to go to sleep so that the Weinachtsmann has time to come."
Susie dragged Papa by the hand; "Come Papa. Come tell Susie a story."
Katja and Susie were soon curled up together on their cosy feather bed. Papa sat on the edge of his bed across from them. He spoke softly, rehearsing a favourite Bible story, and within minutes Susie's eyelids were fluttering heavily.
Papa’s voice quieted, but the sound of Mama bustling about was like a gentle lullaby. Then Mama was speaking.
"Do you think Susie will be satisfied with her Christmas this year? She has asked so many questions about the Weinachtsmann that she has me quite flustered at times."
Papa was chuckling, "Is there anything that our inquisitive little Quachbase does not ask questions about? But she will be delighted with everything tomorrow; you will see." Susie drifted contentedly into dreamland.
As the dawn of Christmas day crept softly into the tiny sod house, Susie stirred to the familiar sound of Mama starting the fire in the brick wood stove. She opened her eyes and Papa reached over, lifted her up, and tucked her in bed beside him. He started to tell her a story, but story time had yielded some of its attraction for her this morning, and no longer held her spellbound.
"Papa," she interrupted, a delicate finger pointing to the heaping plate on the table, "what's that?"
"You will see soon enough, my Suschen," he said. "Soon our house will be warm, and then you and Katja may go and see what the Weinachtsmann has put on your plate."
He tried to continue the story but Susie's entire imagination was revolving around a plate filled with tantalizing treats.
"Papa," she whispered, "I have'ta go potty."
"Can you not wait?" he asked.
She shook her head vigorously, and scuttled out from his arms, throwing the quilted covers wide, and landing lightly on the cold dirt floor. She trotted off across the room, used the white enamel potty quickly and then turned back to Papa. As she brushed past the treasure laden table eager fingers reached out and returned in the shape of a bulging fist. She sped quickly toward the bed, and bounced up beside Papa.
"What have you got in your hand?" Papa asked.
"Nothing," she lied brightly. Papa looked at her strangely and she began to feel uneasy.
Papa had always been her dearest friend, giving hours of his precious time, spinning delightful parables that never, until now, had failed to enthral her. His eyes usually held such a twinkle in them that they reminded her of the pretty blue sparks that flew from Grospapa's welding machine, the sparks that Papa said were dangerous, and could start a roaring fire. She squirmed at the thought of a possible blaze now.
Hesitantly she reached her free hand to twiddle the long handles of his bright copper-gold moustache, but it did not bring the softening expression she sought. Instead, as she watched, two pleats formed, starting at the inside of his bushy eyebrows, and rising almost to his sleek copper hair. She ran a timid finger along the puffy mound between the two wrinkles, but the creases remained.
She tried to snuggle up to Papa's broad shoulder, the one that had carried all of her infant heartaches, but this morning, the steel strength gave her no assurance, or comfort. Susie’s hands were beginning to sweat, and in her right hand, the candy was becoming horribly sticky. "Tell me another story," she begged.
Papa began to speak but his voice was quiet, almost sad, and yet it seemed oh, so gentle. "Yes, Suschen, I will tell you a story. I will tell you the story of a little girl with pretty green eyes and lovely dark auburn hair.
"It was Christmas time in Siberia, and this little girl was very excited. She had put her special plate out the night before for the Weinachtsmann to fill. Sure enough, the next morning, there were some colourful sugary treats piled high, alluring her. Oh how the little girl ached to get up and take one! It was just too much to expect such young child to stay patiently in bed with her Papa until the house became warm. Tell me Suschen, what do you think that little girl did?"
Susie's eyes locked on her father’s then shifted to gaze at the offending hand. The prize in it had lost its value. Slowly, she loosened her fingers, showing a sticky palm, and one messy Christmas candy. Before Papa knew what was happening, the gooey thing was plopped into his large hand. Susie's eyes again sought her father's. Papa had the strangest expression on his face, and his moustache was twitching. He lay there silently, the candy held out gingerly in an open palm.
Finally he spoke. "Did this candy give you any happiness while it was in your hand, Suschen?"
She sat up and shook her head, her braids waving to and fro. "It feeled sticky."
Papa grimaced; he seemed to understand the feeling. "And the lie that you told to Papa, how did that feel?"
Her answer was almost a whisper. "It feeled bad too."
"And does it feel better now to have let go of the sticky candy, and to have confessed the lie?"
Her head bobbed up and down, and a sunshine smile broke out from inside of her. "And Papa still loves his Suschen?" she encouraged.
Papa smiled. "Yes, my Liebchen, Papa loves you and forgives you for lying to him.
"Now," Papa asked, "would you like to have this candy?" Susie looked at him in wonder and then looked back at her sticky fingers.
Papa laughed. "This time we will put it in your mouth."
With eyes still on Papa, she opened her mouth wide to receive the candy. It had a wonderful taste, and Papa did seem relieved to be rid of it.
"Shall Papa tell you a secret, Schene Doch, (fine daughter)? I believe you have received an extra special present this year. You have learned a very important lesson on the value of always telling the truth. You will often be tempted to try to fool Mama or Papa, but whenever you are tempted, remember how it felt to hold that sticky candy and have to lie to Papa. It may save you many unhappy times as you grow older."
"Yes, Papa," she answered lightly, and wrapped her sticky hand around him in a big grateful hug; and this time, the arms that went around her in return, had all the warmth and gentleness in them that her young heart could contain.
©2010 Carol Flett
Angels are Singing
The story is told by the prophets of old
Wise men from afar followed the star
Angels are singing, Glad tidings bringing
At the end of the ages, we're told by the sages
Angels are singing, Glad tidings bringing
<- Page 2 (Christmas 2010)
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