Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shepastor: "Practical Support and Encouragement for One Another..."

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). Matthew 1:23, NIV

Studies show that the holiday season can be a very difficult time for many. While some families are hustling and bustling about, having meals together, sharing gifts, receiving guests, dressing up their homes, etc., others are grieving the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, or never having the mate, companion, lover, home, children etc., of their dreams. Tidings of “comfort and joy” have eluded some.

Reflecting upon the Nativity scene, something very practical may escape us as we bathe in the glory of the “new born King…” Mary and Joseph struggled to find a place for her to give birth to the baby. “No room in the Inn…,” only a dirty stable amidst some animals. Yet the Lord saw fit to send an angel to go and tell some folks to be with them. Yes they went to behold the baby Jesus. But could it also be that the Lord wanted to remind Mary and Joseph that they were not alone – that “God was with them?” He called some shepherds, even some kings, even some animals to be with them as they gave birth to the Son of God. Even at Jesus’ birth, the Lord was letting us know that we need encouragement and support.

People, having been told that there is no room for them are surrounded by stinking stables (so to speak). The elderly forgotten in nursing homes, the children in foster care, the prisoners returning to society, the poor who have received notice of yet another food stamp cut, the sick and shut in, retired pastors and even some “working” pastors…no room – go to the stable!

Suicide is on the rise. People are lonely, broken and suffering in silence. Instruction manuals, workshops, and panel discussions abound. But when they return home, the pain still exists – the pain of loneliness, rejection, depression, being overwhelmed etc. Can we do some practical things? Can we be like the shepherds and go and be with them in the birthing process? Can we push past the proverbial and sometimes literal stench of their “stables” and be with them? Can we visit, pick up the phone and call, send cards – dare to have an “in human” touch in this age of technology?

Consider a child’s description of true friends…

They keep our secrets
They tell us their secrets
They remember my birthday!
They always make sure I’m included in fun things
They know when I’m sad and ask me why
When I miss school because I’m sick, they ask their moms to call to check on me

Taken from Brene` Brown’s book, Daring Greatly (Gotham Books-Penguin Group, Inc., 2012, p. 49)
And a child shall lead them…May we “dare” to be shepherd-friends in practical ways. Lives are at stake.

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Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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