Pastor Page December
Last month, we spent our time in worship focusing on gratitude. I discovered there’s an unfortunate downside to doing this—the more one focuses on gratitude, the more one notices how ungrateful people generally are. This reality grieves my heart as the ingrates don’t all live outside of the church.
During our time of great thanksgiving and praise, I noticed people who would not attend church if they could not come at the “right” time or if it wasn’t done in the “right” style. Some people came to the church seeking something in return, and some tried to trade on their membership for something that personally benefited them or a special interest.
At this time of the year, people come knocking on our door seeking assistance. If it’s not given or done they way they want, we often hear some form of the following: “I thought you called yourselves Christians.” Sometimes this is said by people outside the church, but sometimes it comes from people within our walls. It’s the opposite of what James said we do if we are hearers and doers of the Word AND possessors of a pure religion (James 1:19- 27).
As someone who mentors and trains leaders, one of my constant refrains is: “It doesn’t matter what you decide, someone will complain.” In other words, someone will be ungrateful for the work, planning, and preparation that often at- tends every decision in the church. (And for that, I am thankful for our leaders, staff, and volunteers who are diligent in their duties and faithful to God in carrying them out.) And usually, the complaints are about minor things.
We live in a world fraught with danger, heart- ache, and pain—a world that desperately needs Jesus, His healing touch, and the presence of His body, which is the Church, His people (you and I) —and we’re distracted by styles of worship, the time of a meeting, or the day of an event—especially if it keeps us from a sporting event or our favorite show.
I know. This doesn’t sound very Christmasy. It might sound judgmental—perhaps, it’s a bit too prophetic. I’m not saying this just to vent or to put people down. I want us to reflect if we truly are grateful and if we are grateful for the right things.
As I write this, there is a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I weep for you and this church. I weep for this world. And to be completely honest, I weep for myself. When I read John 1, I am amazed at God’s love for this world. The Father gave His only begotten Son, and He gave Him in such a beautiful way. The Father could have force-fed us our medicine. He could have sent Jesus on a flaming horse with a sword in His hand.
He could have sent legions upon legions of angels to annihilate the evil in this land.
Instead, He did none of that. The Father sent the Son as a little Babe birthed into an impoverished family in an impoverished land. His first bed was a feed trough. As John 1:11 states: “He came to His own, and His own
people did not receive Him.” Every time we are ungrateful, every moment that we complain be- cause we are NOT getting OUR due, we are NOT receiving Jesus. In other words, we are the people spoken of in John 1:11—it’s not just those people back in Bible times. We have met those people, and they are we.
That’s why when we read the Christmas story in Luke 2, it is the shepherds in the fields who end up being the first to bearing witness to the Savior’s ar- rival in this world. The priests and the religious people—the Lord’s own people—were too busy with themselves and their lives to meet the One who would fulfill the promises and prophecies of old.
The shepherds would be the night shift janitors of their day. They were doing a thankless task at a forgotten hour. Nobody notices them un- less they messed up. It was one of the least glamourous jobs. Yet, God deems the lowly and the humble as the honored first guests who met Jesus, the Messiah.
The Word became flesh, and He wanted to be introduced to the meek and the humble. He was introduced to the ones who had nothing to offer but their presence and gratitude. These shepherds also knew what to do with Good News as John 1:17 tells us: “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
Gratitude, true gratitude, is not passive; it leads to action. That is why the Holy Spirit has impressed this theme upon my heart, and it’s for my sa- ke and for the sake of the Church. The world is filled with enough hubris and self- absorption. We are called to a new, the way of our Savior who came lowly and humbly surrounded by the lowly and the humbly, and He desires the same today.
May we hear the Christmas story with joy this year, and may we listen undistracted as we attend to the humble service to which we are called. When the angels bring to us the Good News of Great joy” (Luke 1:10), let it fling us to meet our Savior, and let that interaction lead us into the world to share joyfully what God has revealed to us. My hope and prayer is the presence of Christ changes us from the inside out—our transformed desires will lead to revitalized speech and action that glorifies God.
May we be the shepherds of this generation.
With the joy of the Savior,