Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!
I love to ask questions. For years I have always been “that guy” at dinner or at a party who can orchestrate the direction of the conversation just by asking a few well placed questions. Depending on the season, or company present, some of my favorite questions include: How did you two meet? What was your favorite halloween costume as a child? What was the last best book you read? All of these questions are geared toward opening up a conversation for all people to respond accordingly. It allows for everyone present to reflect on something and then share it with everyone present. My favorite question to ask during Advent has always been: What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
Its a perfect question. Everyone loves to take a few moments to go through the catalogue in their memory banks of all the presents they received as children, you can detect a positive change in the atmosphere because the memories elicit such joy, and the discussion will continue from that first question toward a full and fruitful conversation.
What was the best Christmas present you ever received? What memories do you have of gathering around the Christmas tree with your family preparing to rip apart the wrapping paper?
I love to ask that question, but recently I’ve begun to wonder whether I should be asking it at all. The celebration of Christmas (according to the ways of the world) has so trumped the theological convictions of Advent that Santa Claus has become frighteningly synonymous with Jesus Christ. Moreover, practices like “The Elf on the Shelf” have led children (and some adults) to grossly misunderstand the depth and breadth of God’s prevenient grace in the world.
When I read from the 146th Psalm I wonder if instead of asking everyone about their favorite present, I should instead ask: “When was the last time you gave food to the hungry?” Or “How are you keeping your faith?”
I know those questions are tougher to swallow, even for me, but I believe they really get at the heart of the Christmas message. How are we living out our faith, particularly during this season of giving? How are we reaching out to those in our community who need to feel the love of Christmas more than anyone else?
So, as we all gather in the shops to find the perfect present, and even as we sit around our perfectly lit and decorated Christmas trees, let us remember the true depth of Christmas. Let us recall that Christ came not to be served but to serve. Let us ask ourselves the difficult and life-changing questions in order that we might live fruitful lives in God’s kingdom.