Front yards are being transformed with nativity scenes, snowmen and Santa Clauses. Doorways with wreaths, pine branches, lights and/or ribbons etc. invite people to enter and be part of fellowship at Christmas. Tall red candles shine out from the apartment building across the parking lot from us and our building is lit up with the words “Season’s Greetings.” Other doorways suggest a quiet elegance or a peaceful presence. People are drawn to the welcome these festive decorations suggest.
It is easy to imagine the decorated trees inside, gifts under a tree and family and friends gathered to share a feast of turkey and all the trimmings. I wonder how many homes have an advent wreath and candles and a daily reading of scripture as they approach the celebration of Christmas and Christ’s birth.
I remember a stained glass window in the church I attended as a child. Jesus, with a lamp in one hand, stands knocking at the door. “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my (Jesus’) voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Will Jesus receive a warm welcome at your home this Christmas? Will you welcome him as you sit to enjoy all the treats of a Christmas meal? He came as a baby at Christmas to bring you’re the most precious gift of all – salvation. He came because God loved us beyond anything we can understand. Open the door of your heart and welcome Christ in your Christmas.
My husband and I had the opportunity to meet twelve faith believers who attend Sunday afternoon services in the retirement residence where they live. As we arrived, one was setting out the bible and Hymnbooks and candles on a table ready for worship. She asked which one of us was going to play (meaning the piano) and we told here that unfortunately we were not able to do that. Her smile quickly returned as she said we are very good at singing acapella. And generally speaking they were good. We sang a couple of Christmas carols, the first verse and chorus of Jesus Loves Me because it fit so well with the message and then sang a few of the favorites they requested.
They listened intently as they saw photos of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. A grandmother and her daughter worshipped and praised God singing hymns in their own language. Those photos Lloyd showed the residents demonstrated the delight of the Haitians to be able to worship in their first language.
Then the twelve watched as Lloyd used balloons to show the caterpillar being transformed to a butterfly through the love of a God who sent his son as a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven and receive eternal life. It was a real treat to see peoples’ eyes light up as we smiled at them and/or shook their hand. Forty five minutes flew by very quickly. As the songbooks were gathered up, several of those who were present said thanks and urged us to come again. The woman who welcomed us and handed out the songbooks said they are a small group but also a faithful group. We felt blessed by being in their presence.
King David urged God not to cast him away or forget him when he grew old. Many thanks to pastors and others who bring the elderly the word of God and who encourage the faithful.
During this past week, Lloyd and I have done some unusual things or had some unusual requests as part of doing ministry. For example, a Mexican worker asked for the notes for playing the Wedding March on a keyboard. Shortly after his return to Mexico, he will be playing at his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The same man asked Lloyd to go with him to a store to help him purchase a piece of equipment to take back to Mexico.
A couple of days earlier, we brought chili to a home where a team was helping load a moving van. That’s not so unusual but the request to pray for a slow moving toilet and a septic system was much more unusual. We spent about three hours helping the volunteers from the church pack and then feeding them.
Next, a family from Mexico now living in Sarnia while one of them studies at Lambton College called to ask if we could help them get a bed frame from the store to their apartment. The frame went into the back of the SUV and then another trip was made to the half-price sale at Goodwill looking for winter jackets.
These may seem like unusual ministry activity. Jesus had some unconventional ways of ministering. We read of his spitting and then with dust and spittle touching the eyes of a blind man and restoring sight. God may call you to do some unusual but not difficult things for his sake. Trust Him and allow Him to use you.
Tennessee William’s song, “Sixteen Tons” talks about getting deeper in debt each day no matter how hard you work – (loading sixteen tons a day at the mine). Is it possible to get deeper in debt on a daily basis? Yes. Interest increases the amount owed and there are people who arrive at a point that there seems to be no way out. They lose a house and all that they put in it because they cannot make payments. Yet debt exists and is an increasing problem. Countries operate with deficit budgets; churches borrow for building projects. Church attenders pay more in interest than they give to the church as a tithe. Student loans are easily available and at registration several companies offer students a credit card.
I know people who have left their home and family to work in Canada for several months of the year because they have incurred debt they cannot pay. They are trapped and their sacrifice can results in loss of relationships and broken families. Proverbs 22: 7 says that borrowers become slaves to the lenders. Credit card companies hire people to try to recover what is owed to them. Most of us know someone who has no savings for emergencies or for replacement of a worn out vehicle or major appliance. Businesses promise no payment for two years. A refrain of the Williams song states, “St Peter, don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.”
I struggle with unanswered questions. Is our God not big enough to provide if we put him first? What should be the role of parents in teaching and setting examples for children? Should the church offer financial management courses?
Five of us sat in the apartment singing choruses in Spanish following the words on the television screen. Lloyd brought three migrant workers in for the study. Then after the choruses and worship, we turned to prayer and scripture and reflection on the scripture we read- Do Not Worry, part of Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. As each of us commented on a verse that touched him or her, it was interesting to see that all five of us chose a different verse. An interesting question developed with respect to people who seek or strive for things like food, drink, clothing etc. The Spanish language version states that the gentiles seek things and the English NIV version states that pagans seek these things. Those who are believers and know who God is know that God knows our needs.
We all agreed that worry and searching for things was a result of a lack of confidence in the breadth of God’s love and the wonder of his kingdom. One key verse states that if we seek the kingdom of God first, all the other things will be given to us as well.
Our time together ended with prayer bringing to God our concerns and needs – health issues, family concerns and difficulties at the work site. In an hour, we shared our needs prayed for each other and trusted in God that he would meet our needs as we sought him in prayer.
Often we ask questions about where something or someone is and sometimes the question has developed into a song or a game or a puzzle. For example, there is the song “Where, oh where has my little dog gone? Oh, where oh where can he be?” or a one-time popular computer program, “Where in the world is Carmen Santiago?” or a puzzle which asks “Where is Waldo?” Your recognition of any one of these questions probably says a lot about your age.
For the last couple of days I have been asking, “Where is Rosario? After her 2 month visit, it seems very unnatural not to see her in the kitchen making supper, going for yard sales on Saturday morning or seated in her chair at nine in the evening with her Bible for our family worship time.
Psalm 121 speaks about looking up to the mountains and asking, “Where does my help come from?” The psalmist replies, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” As Lloyd, Rosario and I discovered over and over in our study time, our help, our protection and our blessing comes from our heavenly father.
Where is Rosario? At home with her family in Durango, Mexico.
As the three of us, Lloyd and I and our guest, were leaving the apartment building with a couple of boxes and a pot, the ladies sitting by the door asked where we were going. Jokingly, I said we are a Mexican restaurant and we are making a delivery. One looked at us wondering if we would deliver to her apartment. Our Mexican guest had spent all day preparing the feast we carried to the car.
While we were not part of a restaurant, we were carrying Mexican food and delivering it to a farm where Mexican migrants worked. We arrived, wiped off the table and set a serviette and plastic fork at six places, three for the men and three for us. When they came in, they were delighted to see they were being treated specially and even more delighted when we served plates of tacos dorados, pasta and salad and a hot sauce. One comment was Mexico came to us tonight and that they had had a real Mexican meal in more than five months and another said this meal was for them a Thanksgiving meal.
Before we ate, we sang about God’s glory coming down on us and healing hurts and encouraging people and then prayed. After everyone had a second serving, we sang well known choruses and then ended the evening after prayer. There were a lot of laughs, great food and a time of sharing God’s love. The next day we did the same thing for the workers at another farm. We deliver –both food and an example of our faith.