Christmas Come and Gone.
We join in the hype which seems to get earlier every year. We stress over the presents, the get together’s, the Christmas dinner, fitting everything in. We eat until we are sick and drink to try and be merry. Then after the huge build up once again it is gone for another year. That is Christmas and New Year, and then before we know it we are back to normal. Normal service has been resumed. We wake up and realise there is still work to go to, still kids to sort out, still bills to pay, still repairs on the house that need fixing. Reality sets in. When the decorations are finally put away a tinge of sadness hits the heart and mind. All we are left with again are memories. But I’ve enjoyed the so called season of goodwill to all men. I’ve enjoyed having all the family back together, with the boys back from University. The house has been full again, full of laughter, full of fun, full of banter and teasing, full of arguments and shouting. Family was all together once again. I love their excitement which is contagious. Even the oldest two at 21 and 18 still love the wonder of Christmas and the traditions of having stockings and coming into mum and dad’s bedroom to open their early presents. Makes you realise how precious these times are and at their ages every one could be the last one where you are all together. Family is precious. I am realising more and more that the issue of the season is not whether it has pagan or Christian roots, or whether the origin of a tree is to do with some other deity or whether the three kings actually turned up at the inn, the issue is family, friends, people in our lives that are precious to us. Enjoying being with them and not wanting to be elsewhere, and that includes wanting to attend church stuff. Realising that we do not have to fight to put Christ back into Christmas because whatever we call it He is present in it all the time. Whether we sing I saw mommy kissing Santa Clause or Silent Night He is present because of incarnation. Being with family and friends is high on His priority list, He did this for 30 years of His life, while only spending three teaching and doing the stuff. We look more for the stuff while neglecting the 30 year living in the joys and pains of the family around us. But then like every year the season is gone but life goes on in all it’s shapes and forms.
The Shadow of Pain.
One of the introductions to the new year was a visit to the aisles of Asda from a young man called Chris. As he started to speak to me he was visibly upset and tears started to fill his eyes. His father had been taken ill and was in hospital. They had already had to resuscitate him once and now he was laying on a life support machine with the possibility of imminent death hanging over him. Chris then held me tight and began weeping on my shoulder. This was a holy pain filled moment. Chris is the son of a man called Gerald who I have written about before. https://pleader05.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/the-travellers-rest-geralds-story/ Chris is a young man with many struggles; a broken marriage, a past with drugs, issues upon issues, but here he was holding me as he spoke of his father, asking me to pray. On Sunday I briefly went to see the family in their home, a home that I had frequented often. A home where there was always a welcome and a cup of tea and a hive of activity as their children and grandchildren came and went. A home where we had spent hours sharing the Scriptures and sharing the story of our lives and praying and where many characters were invited along to share the journey, including ex-convicts and alcoholics. As I was parting to go visit Gerald his wife Maria said ‘you will always be our pastor’. That is something I had not heard for years and I would normally flinch and recoil at, but at this moment it seemed to have some relevance. I got to the hospital and not knowing what to expect I entered the ward to find a man who I had always seen being active and lively and full of stories and how Jesus had rescued him from alcoholism laying there fully sedated and in a coma like state. Totally unresponsive. For a while I was awkward but then I started talking to about a few of the old stories, I repented to him about how I had left him out to pasture because he was never comfortable coming to church meetings. I thanked him for all he had ever done, at a phone call he would come and stick his hand down a toilet or fix a broken window, he would paint a wall or patch up a door. We would spend many moments just talking about life and God and family. While there a young woman who I had not seen for years came to visit him. We talked and shared about life and worked out our pain together. There were no easy Scripture verses here or bravado Jesus can heal statements, but to just be there seemed right. When she left I read some Psalms to him, read from the Gospels and the book of Revelation. I prayed for him, not for healing but for peace and in thankfulness of this life. I anointed him with oil from Jerusalem that our niece had bought us for Christmas. The aroma filled the room as did a sense of this holy moment. Then it was time to leave. This is life, death, life, eternity. This is reality. This is what it is all about. People with stories sharing joys and pain. That every moment is a holy moment.
Restoration of the Important.
As I shared the need on Facebook and asked the praying type to pray, I got a short response from a Facebook friend and travelling companion in this journey of life, Karen Howard. She said that morning she had simply heard the words ‘this is the year of family of friends’. As I thought about it I thought what else is there? That is the investment of life. It is not about church programmes or meetings and gatherings. It is about those who are around us and in our lives. It is about the restoration of the important, those that matter, those we spend our time with. An appreciation of those we walk on the journey with on a daily basis. We spend our energies creating new communities while we really just need to open our eyes and see community all around us all the time. Our family, our friends, our work colleagues. Why do we then feel the need to create a false community around religious activity. Yes let us meet the people we connect with for sharing life, word, prayer, but why spend energy doing things with people we do not really commune with just because we feel we should. The real litmus test is if the meeting was taken away would we still want to be with that person? The Scriptures even say that Jesus chose those He wanted to be with. So as we enter another new year with many false promises and unrealistic targets, with many so called words of the Lord and prophecies about what is going to be special about this year. Why not get back to the things that our lives are made of, family and friends. And if we have found ourselves alone and in isolation believe for this to be the year of true community transpiring. For me this is the year to live, share, laugh, love, weep, listen, hope, dream, hold, walk, rest, be. And appreciate the aroma of the Holy through it all.