Thursday, December 16, 2010

Strangers make it significant

Last week we reflected on what makes Christmas truly festive, and yesterday we began to consider how it can be more than merry; it can be significant.    In Christmas God shows us the perfect example of what it is to serve.

Christmas is a story of strangers, a secret to its significance.

  • Mary delivered Jesus in a stable belonging to ... strangers.
  • Strangers ... from a nearby field were the first visitors to the small family.
  • Wise men from the East came to visit the family they had never met ... strangers.
  • Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt among ... strangers. 
If the characters of Christmas held firmly to the "don't talk to strangers" rule, the story would break down. Christmas pageants would be really short!  

Christmas requires the intersection of the lives of strangers, because it draws on our need to trust ... to believe. 

My dad is really good at talking to strangers. I love that about him. He can quickly find a point of connection with someone at a counter or a restaurant or on a park bench. Grandkids love that. ;)  I'll never forget the night he brought a troubled man to our home to give him shelter. I was small and afraid, but I remember my mom telling us we could invite the stranger in, because we trust God. 

Yesterday Jeff and I went to a graduation of six people who have been through the rehabilitation program at our Knox Area Rescue Ministry. Most of the people were strangers to us.  Some of them had been strangers at this time last year, but they aren't any more. Jesus drew us all together, as we listened to these words from Psalm 40:2:

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and 
He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 

Then we sang together "I Believe You're My Healer" and "How He loves me, Oh, how He loves me ..."  The voices sang with conviction, and the words came from their hearts. We prayed and clapped and gave praise, as testimonies were given of God's power over darkness and of restoration.  This is what Christmas was meant to do.  Strangers are brought together when Jesus changes their lives with His. 

The service closed with hugs and pictures and weeping, grateful family members. We walked out into the bitter cold, as people filed past us into the warmth before lunch was served. Most didn't have gloves. A man with only one foot scooted by in a wheel chair; his single foot had no sock on it. A girl passed me, looking about the age of my daughter. Strangers?  Yes.  Don't talk to strangers?  No.  Jesus came specifically to talk to strangers.  He came to love strangers and to help us love strangers.  

Do we dare pray that God will put us in the path of a stranger, that He will disrupt and disturb our Christmas errands with the need of a stranger?  I suspect that if we do, we will find that Christmas becomes more significant, and I want that as much as you do. 

Will you please pray for us tonight as we go back to the Shelter with a group of men and women from our church? Our church family gave 900 packages of warm socks filled with personal items, complemented with a tract we wrote specifically for tonight (Sock it to Me).  The tract shares the message of the Gospel from ..... Psalm 40:2, the same scripture that opened the graduation service.  God must want us to give fresh attention to that truth and to remember Christmas is all about being lifted out of the mud and mire to walk in newness of life. Pray for us as we go give gifts of compassion to open doors of life. It's cold outside again, and the dorms and halls and pews will be filled .... with strangers, and Jesus loves strangers. 

Praying God will bless your Christmas with a stranger encounter,

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