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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Slinky for Christmas

Some toys endure and others don't. I can remember being given a Slinky on more than one Christmas as a boy and so obviously they’ve been popular for a long time but ironically they don’t seem to last very long. Among a handful of clothes and a few toys, Noelle received a Slinky in her Christmas stocking this past week. By Christmas evening, it was bent and not working properly and this upset her a little. It provided an opportunity for me to explain, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, that we can’t depend on the things we have (or want) to make us happy. Rather, what we need to set our hearts on has far more to do with our relationships with God and with family and friends.

We really do have to keep reminding ourselves of this. It’s easy to smile at a child for getting this out of whack, especially at Christmas. But it’s a lesson we have to keep re-learning, because the very air we breathe seems focused on stuff and getting more of it. In spite of long experience we still get our hopes up that this time some new acquisition is exactly what we need and will make us happy. It’s pure insanity, but nonetheless, it happens.

To live well, not just before God but with others involves having the discernment to know what is important and what isn’t. Furthermore we need to then develop the ability to delight in what is of the greatest worth. The combination of these abilities leads to a heart attitude that expresses gratitude to God and to others and develops an elusive quality that doesn’t come naturally to any of us, but is attractive to everyone: humility.

Some of the characters around the Christmas story demonstrated these precise abilities to discern and what would genuinely delight their hearts. Sunday at Bethany Place I will finish a Christmas series called Hope in the Dark. You can see the text and outline below.

Christmas is All in the Heart
Luke 1:39-55
Hope in the Dark, Part 3

1.    Seek the ability to discern what really matters

Luke 1:39–45 (ESV) 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

2.    Examine the real temperature of your heart.

Luke 1:46–50 (ESV)
46 And Mary said,
       “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47        and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48    for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49    for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50    And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

3.    Pursue humility

Luke 1:51–55 (ESV)
51    He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53    he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54    He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55    as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

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