Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Hypocrite (No More)

We "Church Regulars" tend to make fun of those who only go to church on "Big" Days.  I know  because I'm one of those who's done it.  The ridiculous fact of the matter is I'm a hypocrite because I only used to go on Christmas and Easter.  But now I judge people for it.  Sad.

It's only been 11 years since that change.  Ironically, my re-salvation came from the lips of someone calling me a hypocrite.  My boss at the time, in a moment of frustration over my behavior in a meeting, pointed the proverbial finger at me and called me a hypocrite for claiming the name of of Christ and having none of His character.  This was truly a case of, when accused of being a Christian, there was no evidence to convict me.

I thank God He removed that identity a few painful hours later.  I felt (more than heard) Jesus ask me if I wanted to stop being a hypocrite and live up to the name I claimed.  I said yes and all I can tell you is something shifted in me - down to the very core of my being.  I got a new life, a new identity...His.  It hasn't been easy to figure out what that looks like, but it is a reality, as imperfectly as I sometimes demonstrate it to be.

Reflecting on that, my heart is stirred this morning by a Facebook post from my pastor, Christian Washington.  He shared out the original post by our "Big" Church, Chapelwood UMC.  It is a prayer from the perspective of those who don't go to church very often.  I included it at the end.

It makes no difference how many times you come to church because families aren't built on quantity.  They are built on the quality of love and blood-ties.  In the Church, we have both: the love of Christ and His shed blood makes us one with Him and His Father.  It is similar to this: I don't see my brother, Craig, every week, but that doesn't change the fact that he is MY BROTHER AND I LOVE HIM.

You are no less family even if we see you once or twice a year.

In the Body of Christ, we should be the MOST grateful for those we don't see often.  We should treat them like we miss them, so maybe they will want to come more often!  Yet, what usually happens is, we judge those visitors the harshest (even if, like me, we were once like them.)  We have all been prodigals - traveling towards a moment of realization that home is better than our present circumstances.  But us "older, more responsible brothers" tend to get our noses in a twist.  (See Luke 15:28-29 here.)

In the craziness of this world, the times we live in, the confluence of events happening in our nation and world, you never know what is going to motivate someone to enter (or re-enter) a relationship with Christ.  The best rule of thumb is always to pour the love on thick.  That is what Jesus would do.  It is what He has always done.  If we are to accurately celebrate His birth and future return, we best do it with love in our hearts for fellow man, not hatred because they don't live up to our standards.

To those who don't go to church often - if you have ever felt judged by stares, glares or even a nasty comment or two, please forgive us "regulars." I include myself in that plea.  We are imperfect people, obviously in need grace because we don't have it right yet, even if we think we do.  Forgive us our trespasses against you.

To those who do go to church often - do some heart-house-cleaning if you tend to judge others.  It hurts you more than them.  It hurts them too and it is not God's best for anyone.  Scoot to the middle of aisle, smile at everyone and bask in the glory of Your God.  He knows you well and He loves you more than you can imagine.

I prayed this back in November, but I hope the Lord makes this holiday season....different.  I hope He changes us in ways that leave us different for the rest of the year.  I hope His Presence is tangible in every Christmas Eve service, in every candle lit, in every song sung and in every word prayed or preached.

You are loved.  You are family.  And we are glad to see you.  Hosanna in the Highest! 

A Christmas Eve Prayer for Those Who Don't Attend Church - by Bishop Ken Carter
I don’t go to church very often, Lord.
I don’t go at all…well, I am here at Christmas.
I’m home then. I feel drawn to it.
I like the Christmas Eve service.
The coolness of the air,
the aroma of the candles,
the familiarity of gathering with strangers.
I feel like a kid again.
It’s surreal.

I know it’s common to make fun of people like me.
What can I say? I’ve drifted…
But something pulls me back
Are You speaking to me?

I connect with something in the sermon, sometimes,
but mostly it’s the music and the candles.
What is it about the candles?
Darkness and light.
Light and darkness.

I know about light and darkness. I live in both.
I’ve got some of both in me.
And yet there is an impulse,
a movement to be closer to the light.
And so the flame of a stranger touches mine
and I sing the chorus,

Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face…

That is the light, the face, the life I seek,
and in this moment, I am touching it.
And then a voice reminds me,
in the echo of ancient words
that are always needed,

the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

I am speaking to you, Lord,
but on this night, from every conceivable direction,
you are speaking to me.

And I am listening.

1 comment:

Janice and James said...

Amy, praise God for your gift of words!! Cherishing our friendship!!