Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Ho Hum. It’s Christmas Again…

posted by Ruth Graham

Christmas seems to have rolled around faster this year. Perhaps because I am older…Yikes! Perhaps it is because the stores begin to put out Christmas items in July and August.  And how many times can you hear “O Holy Night” on the grocery     store Musak (Do they even use that anymore? – showing my age! )so you no longer hear the tune or the message?  Christmas has lost its meaning as we run from store to store or click through hundreds of websites checking our lists so that no one is forgotten.

In the midst of all of that we have to do and be we have to make the time to reflect on Christmas – just exactly what it means to us today in our technological world? What meaning does it have in my world of schedules, demands? Is it about the decorations and gifts? Is it about parties and special food treats. Is it about holiday music – I have to admit I am tired of “Jingle Bell Rock”.  Is it about family gathering whether or not you want to see them?

We have heard the Christmas story hundreds of times, what’s new to learn? How can such an old and familiar story move us in the 21st Century? The Christmas story begins back in Genesis. God set His plan in motion way back at the beginning of time.

God had created the earth and all that was in it – trees, birds, animals, oceans, mountains – everything. But still something was lacking. So He made a man, Adam. They enjoyed intimate relationship. He placed him in a beautiful garden. It was an ideal, perfect place. God had told them he could enjoy everything – it was all there for his pleasure. The only thing that was off limits was the tree of knowledge of god and evil. If he ate the fruit of it, he would die. God gave Adam choice. To obey or not. Choice. We still have choice.

God saw that Adam needed a helper so he made Eve. Adam liked that now he had a woman to enjoy the garden with him. They enjoyed one another without shame.

Satan was very crafty and showed up to tempt Eve and made her doubt God’s word to them. He made them think there was something more – that God was holding out on them. He is still doing that to us in very subtle, attractive ways. He encouraged them to choose to disobey. They did and that’s the day the world began to die. Nothing was the same. Adam and Eve were literally and figuratively banished from the garden to struggle.

But God didn’t let them go. In great love and mercy God continued to woo His people back – through covenants and promises, deliverance and prophets. They continued their sinful ways. Finally He left them to their own devices.

After years of silence (400 to be exact), God announces that He is coming to earth and his name will be Emmanuel, God with us. What a remarkable concept!  This high and holy God; the one whose face could not be seen; the one who could not be approached – He’s coming to earth! Who would have thought!

By coming to earth God to be human, like us, was stooping to our level. He was going to learn what it was to be human. He was going to get his hands dirty and blistered from labor. He was going to get his heart broken by betrayal.  He was going to have to face hostility. He would know the brutal murder of a family member, John. The shock of the news yet the demands that life has to go on. The need to get away. He was going to deal with difficult family issues – jealousy, unfair criticism, injustice.  And a savage execution.

Why would Almighty God, secure on His throne, surrounded by adoring beings, leave the comfort and glory of heaven to be with us? He longed for relationship with the ones He created – you and me. He would do anything – even the unimaginable – to have a relationship with us.  He was going to go toe to toe with Satan himself and win us back. He put death on notice. Once and for all, He would defeat Satan.  That is what Christmas is about.

Why?

posted by Ruth Graham

I have watched the news with profound sadness and real questions. Questions are good and natural at such a time. Anger too.

Wow. There is just not much to say at such a time.

But I think of the message of “Emmanuel”. God with us…in the loss, tragedy, heartache, questions…

God is still almighty, wise, good, faithful, loving…He has not changed.

 

Entitlements

posted by Ruth Graham

Found this on a website and it gives one pause:

As of November 2012, Jose Mujica, the president of Uruguay, held a unique position—the BBC called him “the world’s poorest president.” It’s a common complaint that many politicians around the globe live in luxury while the masses they lead live in poverty. Instead, Mujico has chosen to identify with his people by living on a ramshackle farm located on a dirt road outside the capital.

A reporter for the BBC News described his approach to Mujica’s lowly residence:

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside …. This austere lifestyle—and the fact that Mujica donates about 90 percent of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000, to charity—has led him to be labeled the poorest president in the world …. In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration—mandatory for officials in Uruguay—was $1,800, the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

The article also noted that Mujica doesn’t have to live this way. Uruguay provides a luxurious presidential residence in the capital city of Montevideo. But Mujica has chosen to shun the privileges he has a right to enjoy so he can stand in solidarity with the people he serves.

Sounds so familiar this Christmas season as Jesus left all the glory and privilege of heaven to identify us. Can we give Him a part of our day and all of our life?

Emmanuel, God with us. Amazing!

 



New Traditions

posted by Ruth Graham

Well, we made it through the 2nd holiday of the season…two more to go. I counted Halloween as the first though I’d rather not! Then Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I wonder why they all seem to congregate at the end of the year plus there is all the year-end financial rush to be sure our donations get in on time. Wouldn’t it be nicer to have them spaced out a bit? I know I am not the first to suggest this – and you see what happened. Nothing.

The Pilgrim’s are reported to have landed in Massachusetts, either Plymouth Rock or Cape Cod, in November so having Thanksgiving in November seems apropos. President Lincoln established it as the 4th Thursday in November. Halloween follows the Church’s calendar for All Saints Day, November 1st. Jesus was not born in December but more likely in April. So we could celebrate Christmas and Easter closer together. 

But it is what it is. All the holidays jumbled up together at the end of the year. I guess I have to deal with it!

I had a lovely Thanksgiving. I text-ed my siblings since I could not be with them and knew they would be too busy to answer the phone. Since my children were not home – off visiting their in-laws – I was able to serve at the local “soup kitchen”. What a joy that was! These humble people were so appreciative of all they received. One man brought his harmonica and guitar to play for those gathered before he got his own lunch – giving what he could. I complemented him on his playing and the smile that spread across his face was wide and appreciative. Families came. Couples. Singles. Old. Young. Some well-spoken, others couldn’t speak English, others butchered it. Some were washed and well-dressed. Others were dirty and poorly dressed. As I served them I wanted to look each one in the eye and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. When I looked out over “dining room” decorated with colorful plastic table cloths and lovely centerpieces, I couldn’t help but think that that is just exactly where Jesus would be. We were “entertaining angels unaware”. (Hebrews 13:2)

I did not darken the door of a store and was perturbed by the opening of our local Kmart at 6:00 AM on Thursday morning. But then I thought about it. While the women were in the kitchen preparing the meal, now the men and children could go on some shopping errands rather than stand around wondering when dinner would be ready or getting in the way in the kitchen. Shopping on Thursday morning could become a new tradition in the home. Send the men out with the kids to buy the women gifts. (I know all that sounds sexist…but it could easily the women taking the children out to buy the men gifts…) Thanksgiving is a good time to be thankful for our many blessings and I do hope you paused in all the activity to give thanks from a grateful heart.

Did any of you do anything different this year? Did it work for you? Let me know.

 

 

 

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