Every year Christmas seems to arrive a little bit sooner than it had the previous year and yet when it is over we are amazed at how fast the time went by. Afterwards, we make a mental note reminding us not to become so overwhelmed by all the activity that we forget to keep Jesus as the focal point of all we do. We would even like to somehow slow down the process and savor the time we have with family and friends.
We might complain when we cannot find any parking spots, become overwhelmed at the bumper to bumper traffic and be mesmerized by all the brake lights disappearing into the night as if they were a string of lights on a Christmas tree. We search for toys that were sold out the week before Thanksgiving and then we remember the broken pledge we made to ourselves last year to never, never again venture out on the notorious ‘Black Friday’ shopping day. It seems like every sight and sound is vying to distort and cause us to forget the true intent and reason for the season.
The day after Thanksgiving I was pleasantly surprised when our daughters wanted us to see the movie ‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio with them, and all six of our grandkids. It was an exceptional movie and one of the rare movies in which people spontaneously clap at the end while wiping away tears. A couple lines in the movie stood out that I have found myself going over and over in my mind. The first is, “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” For some reason, as this line went over and over in my mind, I began to think of what heaven might be like. I imagined Jesus catching sight of me as I entered heaven and as our eyes connected a huge smile quickly spread across his face as he jumped to his feet and pointing towards me He began to clap wildly. Soon all of the multitudes that were present were caught up in His enthusiastic ovation of my entrance into heaven. Now I know this may not be exactly what will happen, but doesn’t this sound like something that Jesus would do?
The next line that I couldn’t get over was about Auggie, who was the main character in the movie and who suffered from a gene disorder at birth which made his face severely disfigured. The movie centers on Auggie leaving the protective confines of his home to begin middle school. Towards the end, the school principal is talking to one of the kids that were bullying Auggie and said, “Auggie can’t change how he looks but we can change how we see him.”
I began to think that although we may not carry the outward physical disfigurement that Auggie was afflicted with, many of us do however show on our faces and subsequently in the way we carry ourselves, the scars made in our journey through life.
It is true that how we respond to the situations we face every day carries with it the power to disfigure both ourselves and others. When we build up and encourage others we cause ourselves to carry the glow of God’s grace upon our face. When we tear someone down by pointing the finger, (Isaiah 58:9) our countenance will carry the scars and wrinkles of our own words and actions. We can take the scars of life and make a decision that we will no longer let them define who we are but turn them into opportunities to bless and encourage others.
Everyone wants you to do better just not better than themselves.
Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” I know that I would like people to give me more grace than I possibly deserve but I have come to realize that if I would like to receive some ‘unmerited grace’ then I should start ‘paying it forward’ by giving to others the grace God has given me. I can’t change the past and how my choices have shaped me but I can change the future by making choices that are right and true. Instead of looking at people and situations with a worldly view perhaps I should start seeing them as Jesus sees them on the inside.
I wonder if a gift that comes from the heart is the most rewarding and fulfilling gift we can give. It doesn’t have to cost us anything other than a little of our time, but if we add a heart that is sincerely filled with gratitude for the person we are with, then that is truly a Christ-like gift. A smile can become a warm hug when given with a sincere and loving heart.
I have found that each New Year brings with it new possibilities as if the past year didn’t quite measure up to what we expected it to be. But if our past year was filled with treasures, measured by time well spent, in the giving out of the overflow of God’s kindness and love, then it truly was a year well spent.
Perhaps a gift that we should unwrap this Christmas is the one that reveals the reason we are here. Jesus through his death and resurrection has given each of us a gift called ‘destiny’ and it is our purpose in life. If we would begin to see ourselves, as God created us to be, then perhaps we would begin to measure up to the role set before us. It would change our posture, give purpose to our walk and make our countenance radiant with the glory of God. When we carry well the heart of God, others see it, are attracted to it and it becomes our greatest strength.
It is sometimes difficult to be kind to people but God does not want us to be kind he wants us to be kinder than the situation warrants. God says it is not enough to just meet the need but go past the need by being kinder than the situation deserves. That is how each of us exhibits to others what God’s face really looks like.
All of us want to be well thought of and loved but we don’t always measure up to our own expectations and in our frustration we can develop a habit of not allowing others to live up to their expectations. There is an old saying that is so true of man’s response to man, “Everyone wants you to do better just not better than themselves.”
It would be good to meditate daily on the words of Paul in Philippians 2:1-4, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”
May your steps be full of kindness, your eyes full of righteousness and your speech used to build up and edify all those you come in contact with.