Sunday, November 11, 2012

What is valuable?

It’s hard to believe but another Christmas season is almost upon us. In a few days we will begin another month of "shear pandemonium and utter chaos" for many an experienced “black Friday” deal sniffer as well as the last minute, Christmas Eve “whatever is left on the shelf” hunter.

The aisles, the parking lots, the shops and malls will all be packed, and just try slithering into that last parking spot or grabbing that last present without a comment, a nudge or even an all out “stern talking to” from the person who “saw it first.”

It’s become the month of craziness to millions of Americans that’s for sure, and as I prepare for my annual month of processing what Christmas really is about, I’m reminded that when you strip away all the parties, and cookies, and presents and egg nog and…fruit cake, Christmas is really the most amazing time of the year for the Christian.

It’s the time of the year when all the bragging rights go to where they should go…God and God alone.

I mean, it was a brilliant plan if you think about it. The whole world was looking and waiting for the prophesied Messiah to come, the only problem was they were operating under faulty assumptions of how He would actually show up. They were thinking about a high rolling Kingly type entrance but God snuck Him in right under their noses.

About six miles from the religious epicenter of the day actually, in a little town called Bethlehem is where He was born. The birthday of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The day when the whole world should be thanking and praising and bringing gifts to Him for His love and grace…why is it then, that the guests at His party receive all the gifts?

Every year at this time I think about what it means to truly go through this season with the right motives, for the right reasons, and honestly every year I find myself getting sucked right in with all the worries and baggage that goes along with what Christmas has become in our culture.

The more I've traveled and have seen how others live and have to deal with things that I can’t even understand, the more I’ve realized that many times my definition of what really matters most in life is way out of whack. The things we place value on and the things people in Africa or Mexico or Ecuador place value on are so very different.

I remember this principle becoming crystal clear to me a few years back while building some houses in Mexico with my youth group. We had a large group that particular year so we split up and actually built three houses in a very poor community along the Rio Grande in a village known as JP Mendez.

The church was the center of the community and the houses (12x16 shelters with no electricity and no running water) were all about a half mile walk to the church. Each day we met at the church, got our plan together and walked to the building site to begin the day’s work.

We would work until noon and then walk back to the church where we would eat our lunch. The organizers were very clear and extremely specific when they told us to never walk alone and never leave our “valuables” on the work site unattended, because they would surely be stolen.

One particular day I learned a very valuable lesson about the definition of the word “valuable.”

It was noon and my group was hungry, so as I was finishing up tacking down some shingles on the roof, I told them to go on ahead and the four students that were helping me on the roof and I would be right there, as we wanted to finish the last row of shingles that we were working on.

We got them done, climbed off the roof and headed to lunch. We got about half way there and realized that we had left a backpack, a purse, a video camera and a digital camera at the work site. We immediately stopped, turned around and began to run to the work site. I mean, our “valuables” were there unattended. The video camera was worth about $500, the digital camera about $300, and the backpack and purse had about $100 in them as well.

As we rounded the corner from that filthy mud caked and pot hole ridden street what we saw next forever changed us with the truth that what is valuable in one culture may or may not hold value in another.

There were about 10 kids gathered on our work site, they watched us leave and waited until the precise moment to make their move, they were stealth-ful and quick. They were thieves, that’s for sure, but what they were stealing was the one thing that they placed a huge value on in their culture. It wasn’t the cameras, or the bags or even the money. They were gathered around our giant thermos…stealing our WATER!

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, the things we placed value on were of little interest to them, especially when faced with an opportunity to drink some cool, clean, disease free…WATER!

So, this year, with that illustration in mind, I’m going to try to keep what is really most important in the forefront of my thinking. God sent His only Son to be born on this earth so the people who rejected Him could have another chance to be reconciled with Him, through the sacrifice He would pay…Now that’s Valuable!

I admit, it’s a busy season with lots of pressures and worries, but this year my prayer is that we would stop and just listen to what God would have us to take away from this Christmas season. He’s still at work, the enemy is still at work and we are still needing to totally rely on our Creator for everything.

So, why don’t we start the Christmas Season off right, and Be Still and KNOW That He is God! Let what is valuable to Him become valuable to us, this Christmas Season.

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