Sent

Have you ever had an experience where you were sent someplace that you didn’t want to go? I remember a time camping with my family in Canada when my mother sent my older sister and me to the little camp store. Our task was to purchase bread, which would seem like a little thing. However, the people there spoke French. We were coached on what to say, how to say it, and how to pay. I was totally discombobulated and very afraid of doing it wrong. Of course mother knew that the lady in the store also spoke perfect English, but she was trying to send us into a foreign experience to try something new and communicate in someone else’s language. The mission was accomplished, in spite of our resistance and fear.

Like all of you, I have been sent into unwanted places. I’ve been sent into the prisons to minister to broken people. I’ve been sent to a hospital bedside to pray as someone died. I’ve been sent to officiate weddings that I knew wouldn’t last. I’ve been sent to a place far away from the home I loved with no immediate prospect of finding a church to serve, or people to love. That is how I ended up on the Outer Banks…God surely did a reversal on that one!

Did you ever stop to think about how many people in the nativity story were sent somewhere they didn’t want to go?

Luke 2 (Common English Bible)

2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

Joseph was sent by the Roman ruler to register his name so that taxes could be taken from him. He had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the privilege. You KNOW he didn’t want to go there.

 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.

“Great-with-child” Mary was sent along. We could not possibly imagine the discomfort and fear that such a journey meant to a young, pregnant woman. Dusty roads and sitting astride the back of a donkey while being exposed to the weather were just part of being sent.

 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

The innkeeper was sent to care for this couple while his place was at full capacity. He couldn’t bear to send them away, but surely he felt bad about sending them to the animal stable.

The innkeeper went where he was sent to provide hospitality to strangers. Joseph went to where he was sent out of duty and obligation. But Mary went where she was sent out of love. And because they all went where God sent them, the entire world was saved.

Where is God sending you? Will you go? Will you go willingly, or reluctantly? Will duty and obligation be enough to go on, or will you go where God sends you out of love?

Wherever you go, wherever God sends you, you are never alone. Thanks be to God.

Go Where God Sends You by Cameron Piland

Do Not Be Afraid

When is the last time you were deeply, mindlessly, overwhelmingly afraid? Not just a little frightened, like when a mouse darts across the floor, or a cockroach hands you the sugar packet when you open the cabinet, or your teenager asks for the car keys, but truly afraid?

Facing a life crisis such as a car accident, eviction, the sudden death of a spouse, a gun pointing at you, surgery….these moments can usher you right into cold, hard fear. Your body takes over and adrenaline pumps so hard through your system you that can’t breathe or even think straight.

Have you ever noticed that just about every time an angel appears in the scriptures, one of the first things they say is “do not be afraid,” and for good reason. The sudden appearance of a fiery, hovering, light-beams-for-eyes creature would be terrifying. That is often the response they received…even Mary was greatly troubled.

Luke 1. (English Standard Version)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Do not be afraid of what is about to be asked of you.

Do not be afraid of this journey I am sending you on.

Do not be afraid of leaving your home and your family.

Do not be afraid to do God’s bidding.

Just go, and do not be afraid.

 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

What is God asking you to do right now that has you fearful? Is he calling you to go somewhere, leave your comfort zone, start or end something, let go of habits that are dragging you down, end a toxic relationship, or in some way do his terrifying bidding?

Do not be afraid. You, too, have found favor with God. He will be with you wherever you go.

Wherever You Go by Jackie Ruskowski

#unrushedchristmas

Let’s make this a THING! I have spotted FaceBook posts of families doing intentional, thoughtful things this season that aim to slow down the crazy roll we find ourselves on as Christmas approaches. The posts are marked #unrushedchristmas. One family posted pictures of a visit to a local restaurant that has massive outdoor decorations. They took their time looking at each one, and the children did a little dancing to the outdoor Christmas music that was playing on the loudspeakers. Another mom posted that she grabbed a cup of coffee and drove down our beach road to look at decorations rather than travel our busy and business-packed bypass. #unrushedchristmas is a movement aimed at creating mindfulness in each day of Advent so that we don’t arrive at Christmas exhausted and resentful.

What a supremely marvelous idea!

It occurs to me as I read these accounts that being unrushed in this season pays homage to the first Christmas, where nothing was or could be rushed. Think about the journey Mary and Joseph found themselves taking. Because a census was being conducted, they had to travel back to their hometown of Bethlehem, on a donkey and on foot. You don’t go anywhere fast with those modes of transportation.

Luke 2 (The Message)

1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

To put this into context, the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is almost 100 miles. At a good pace, that would be about 10 days of walking, and remember, Mary was just about ready to give birth. Nothing happened fast that first Christmas.

Neither should it today.

How can you slow down, take a deep breath, and breathe in all the glory, wonder, and majesty of the season? What can you do TODAY to unrush your rushing around? What can you let go of, simplify, or release, so that the season takes on a more humane pace?

I suppose the real question is, do you really need all that perfection?

Everyone longs for the perfect Christmas, the perfect tree, the perfect table setting, the perfect dinner, and the perfect gift. And we should know better. These things do not exist, yet every year we frantically pursue the perfect Christmas like it’s our JOB.

Stop.

Think.

Simplify.

Worship.

Adore.

Breathe.

Unrush yourself, and join in the awe and wonder of the miracle.

If it helps, imagine yourself walking almost 100 miles to get to Christmas. No matter how fast or slow you go, it will still be there. Christmas comes, whether we think we are ready for it or not. So sloooooow down and be mindful. Stop trying to create the perfect Christmas. Slow down and sit at the manger for a moment. Jesus deserves our full attention for his birthday.

Be #unrushed.

Photo by Meredith Koebley Snider

http://www.meredithksnider.com/