Mike Cope's blog

Monday, December 13, 2004

Two wonderful Christmas programs yesterday. The first was "The Good News Christmas Cruise," with lots of Highland kids. As of this year, we are no longer "children's ministry parents," so we got to go as just supportive members! (Actually, that's not entirely true. I did have two nieces in the play. So we went as supportive aunt, uncle, and cousin.) The second was children from the Highland neighborhood--especially those who participate in the Colonial Apartments ministry. There aren't adequate words to describe the emotions of watching these children tell the story of Jesus' birth. Afterward, Highland was blessed to serve a meal for them, their families, and lots of others from our neighborhood. Two special moments from that second Christmas program. First, I loved hearing Joe Almanza welcome everyone in English and then in Spanish. Joe's our new ministry of community outreach, and he's having an amazing impact. He came here at just the right time. We're using all this language about being a "missional church." Joe is missional. His interest isn't in being the biggest church or the best-known church. He just wants to live for the sake of the world. Second, I heard Diane gasp a bit when the angels walked in. There was a girl in her second grade class last year who wasn't back at Thomas Elementary this year. She didn't know where she went, but knew her life had been very challenging. So she's been praying for her. And then there she was, singing in the Christmas musical in our auditorium! I want to pass along Rubel's "fax of life" for today. Good words about Christmas: USA Today reports that a 25-year-old Memphian has declared his intention to renounce the Christmas rush. He and his wife have told their family and friends not to expect gifts from them this year. "We don't feel any obligation to buy gifts," he says. "I felt odd getting things I didn't need. "The Washington Post carries a similar story that broadens the indictment. It quotes psychologist Patricia Dalton who says that she and her colleagues see hosts of unhappy people whose lives have been hollowed out by "runaway consumerism" – the compulsion to buy clothes they don't need, expensive accessories they can't afford, and high-end trinkets they have come to regard as essentials to life. The stress of paying for all these things drives people to work so hard that they're ruining their marriages, their family life, and their health. Yet we know the American economy could collapse if everybody suddenly quit buying gifts, new things, and only the things we truly need! So what is a responsible person to do? What should a spiritual person do? Is there a middle ground between being a sour-faced Scrooge and a ravenous spendthrift? My own opinion is that Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year. I'm not for abolishing gift-giving as part of the season. Can't we see the gifting we do for one another at Christmas as a reminder of heaven's great gift to us in the birth of Jesus? Is the choice really so extreme as frugality versus greed? Some of us do behave irresponsibly around Christmastime. We seem to forget that debt enslaves. We shower children with an excess that leaves many of them both greedy and ungrateful. Christians too often wind up their year feeling spiritually empty – drained by a holiday that should have been a holy day. So give appropriate gifts to the people you love. As a testimony to grace received, shower grace on others. But set sensible boundaries about the money you can pay for those gifts, so pride and greed don't drive your spending. If things are tight for your family this year, draw names and radically minimize the buying. Whether flush or finite in your giving potential, build generosity and sharing into your family scheme. If you can't make a donation or supply a gift, help at a homeless shelter. Visit a nursing home. Attend free Christmas Eve worship. Don't gripe that everyone has "forgotten the true meaning" of Christmas. Just embrace it for yourself and your family. And model it for those who may have gotten caught up in the hijacking of what can still be a holy season for you.

2 Comments:

  • What a precious gift to see all those children on stage proclaiming His message!

    For many years now, our family has participated in adopting several families at Christmas time. It is amazing the way their eyes "light up" when Santa comes to their house, just like he said he would!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/13/2004 11:54:00 AM  

  • Your relating of the incident with Diane is so true to her and her dedication to her school kids. Having been blessed with having Christopher Paul in her class, I know that her prayers carries he and his classmates to this day. She is such a wonderful example of why Christians are needed in the public schools. Thank you Mike, Matt and Chris for sharing her with her school kids.

    By Blogger Robyn, at 12/13/2004 08:38:00 PM  

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