On December Five and Twenty

In our family, we make aepfel skivers on Christmas morning – it’s tradition. It got me to thinking about how many other things we associate with Christmas that are simply tradition, man-made precepts, which are not exactly biblical. Many Christians like to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but this is, in fact, is a mere half-truth. The book of Luke states this about the night Christ was born; “In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.” (Luke 2:8) Generally, shepherds only stay out with their sheep at night two times a year, in the late summer when the sheep are mated, or in the early spring when the lambs are born. Anyone who is familiar with animal husbandry, can tell you that mating season can be managed without camping out in the fields, but birthing is a different story. Babies – whether human or animal – are born when they are born, and more times than not, it’s the middle of the night, suggesting that the time of year when Christ was born was in early spring, “as shepherds watched their flock at night.” We celebrate the “Nativity of the Christ Child,” which is what early Christians called it, on December 25th bcause it’s a tradition; a tradtion based upon something other than what the Bible teaches. In the early “church” only the anniversary of Christ’s death was revered, as was the death of all the martyrs, but the early Bishops, who it seems would say just about anything to get the pagans to convert, started reasoning that perhaps Christ’s birth coincided with the Roman celebration of the Winter Solstice which was December 25th. Because Christ, reasoned Augustine of Hippo, ” for symbolic reasons,” would choose to be born on that day – the Winter solstice, when the sun begins to bring the light back into the world. Since then, more and more “traditions” have been added over the centuries –wise men arriving at the manger (they in fact arrived at the “house where they saw the child and his mother Mary…” Matt 2:11), evergreen trees decorated with brightly colored “witch” balls and set ablaze with light, mistletoe, holly, St. Nick/Santa, giving of gifts, reindeer and elves, songs about chesnuts and snow – layer upon layer of blending that which is holy with that whih is not. Today, as millions of people across the world gather to celebrate the tradition of Christmas, I would submit this for consideration: In Matthew 15, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “And why do you, by your traditions, break the direct commandments of God?” Telling them further that Isaiah had it right about them when he prophesied, “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas…” Paul also addresses the subject of following man-made ideas when he states in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” And I wonder, with all of the “traditions” we hold dear about Christmas, traditions that even non-believers celebrate, have we turned aside to myths, because it pleases our itchy ears? Something to ponder, to seriously and thoughtfully consider so that we do not find ourselves amongst the Loadiceans, thinking “we are rich” when we are in fact “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, neither hot nor cold and must be spit out of the Lord’s mouth.” ~SLM

The Meek

In my quest to find wisdom through scripture, I come back again and again to certain passages. Today I’m stuck on the Sermon on the Mount and the meek. In Matthew 5:5, we are taught, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and I’m preoccupied with how we apply this teaching to ourselves, so we can live wiser, more peace-filled lives. Perhaps it would be better understood, if it read, “Blessed are the gentle, the humbly patient, for they will reap the rich reward of their calm endurance.”

This goes hand-in-glove with being “poor” in spirit. It has everything to do with humility, and it means; don’t think you’re all that, because generally, you’re not.  In fact, when we’re full of ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to be humble, let alone be patient. In truth, when the ego is inflated, all else shrinks back, all else  becomes secondary, and we’re easily offended, easily angered, easily whipped up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation over the tiniest of perceived slights – real or imagined. We convince ourselves that others think about us above all else, plotting, acting in a certain way, or doing something to us on purpose, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. When we’re “filled with the yeast of the Pharisees,” we leave little room for meekness.

When we’re meek, we understand and accept our own limitations. We are yielding and unassuming, filled with fortitude. It takes great strength and courage to admit to ourselves (and to God) that we don’t have it all together, don’t have any clue what to do next, don’t have all the answers. But meekness also suggests that we know and understand our strengths as well. If one is quiet and gentle, unassuming and calm, it’s an indication of conviction, of certainty. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is what gives us the poise to remain calm in the face of controversy, to intentionally accept disagreeable circumstances which are beyond our control, to be still and wait for His direction, before charging forth into questionable actions and circumstances. 

There’s a profound connection between gentleness and not thinking you’re all that, and there’s also a connection between the “fear” (as in awe) of the Lord and meekness. The “fear” of the Lord is the cause of gentleness, of humble patience. Because, respecting God and being certain of His hand gives us the quiet confidence we need to press on, to endure with gentle patience the long tunnel, keeping our eyes fixed on the light, however dim it may seem at times, confident of the tunnel’s end, and the rich reward awaiting there. 

~SLM

Proverbs 3:9-10 The Notion of Fruits

Proverbs 3:9-10 is a study in giving and receiving; verse 9 covers the giving, and 10 the getting. In a previous post, I learned that a part of being wise is the consideration of getting what you give, of reaping what you sew, and it seems to me that verses 9-10 are a confirmation of this. So we begin with the contemplation of the notion of fruits, first fruits to be specific.

These verses are closely linked with the concept of tithing, of giving of one’s prosperity, one’s wealth. Verse 9 states:” Honor the Lord with thy substance, and give him of the first of all thy fruits:” What exactly are first fruits? Are they the very first red, ripe and juicy tomatoes we pick from the vine, are they the payment we receive for our daily labors, or are they more esoteric concepts? It occurs to me that the idea applies to so much more than just money, and I would argue that our “first fruits” are all of the above. The word substance implies your talents, your time, your knowledge, your love, and If we truly believe that all things come from God, that we are merely the stewards of his gifts, and if we are to honor God with the best part of our riches, then without doubt these things are meant to be given too. Surely we are meant to be generous with all that we are given.

Verse 10 states: “And thy barns shall be filled with abundance, and thy presses shall run over with wine.” So, the concept of paying it forward comes from God. If we want our lives to be filled to overflowing, then we must first share what we have been given. We must give joyously and willingly in the full knowledge and trust that God will bless us greatly for our efforts.

~SLM

Proverbs 3:1-8 It’s a Matter of Trust

At first glance, this chapter seemed to me a repeat of the first 2, a rehashing of the concepts previously discussed. I’m not fond of covering ground twice, so I glanced ahead a few chapters, and I discovered that chapters 1-10 cover a lot of the same principles. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent girl, and I’m not opposed to expounding on a theme, but, on the surface, the reiteration looked rather excessive to me, and had this been a novel, I’d have stopped right there. But this is not a novel, and I have committed myself to this study. I wondered what could be so important. There must be a reason that Solomon found it necessary to repeatedly stress the concepts of faith, love, and the fear of the Lord. I decided to take another tack.

I find that writing verses in my own words can provide insight into their meaning. So I set about writing the verses, praying over their meaning, asking to be given awareness, knowledge, and comprehension of their deeper meaning. And then I slept on it, as is my habit when I’m really engrossed in trying to understand.

This morning, it dawned on me (quite literally, in fact), it’s a matter of trust. Verses 5-6 cover trust, and what my closer look showed me is that until you really, really get the concepts of faith, obedience, love and “fear of the Lord” embedded into your very being, it’s very hard to really, really trust. When we’re children, it’s so easy to trust, but as we grow and mature, we tend to get the trust “experienced” right out of us. We learn to be skeptical, suspicious, and faithless. We have to get the ideas expressed in verses 1-4 so ingrained in us that they are “written on our hearts, as if they are written on stone,” before we can move on to trust. Verses 3-4 are about love and faithfulness, but before love and faithfulness, we have to learn to keep the teachings of wisdom, the commandments of God, which must first be written on our hearts.

Verses 1-2 look more closely at wisdom’s teaching. It’s through the keeping of God’s commands, by writing them on our hearts, that we can remember the teachings of wisdom, and by following wisdom’s guidance, we can live long and prosperous lives. Such a simple concept: Live by God’s commandments, remember them, write them on your heart, and by doing this you open yourself to God’s wisdom, and opening ourselves to wisdom enables us to practice discernment, helping us to consider who we associate with, and how we can live honestly and fairly. Living this way leads to prosperity, not just physical prosperity, but more importantly spiritual prosperity, brought to us through love and faithfulness.

Verses 3-4, to me, convey a very good description of what Christian thought is all about – Love and Faithfulness. They are core concepts and you should be so attached to them that you and they are inseparable, that they become second nature to you, that you express them in everything you do. They are an outcropping of keeping God’s commands and the remembrance of wisdom’s teaching, a natural result listening to the voice of wisdom. By showing love and faithfulness in everything you do, you will find favor with God, and be held in good esteem with him, and by your friends, acquaintances, and mankind.

And all this leads to trust. It’s all about trust. Trust God with all your heart, with all your being. What does this mean? I think that it means to be able to say “Lord, I know you see this situation, and while I have no idea how it could ever resolve itself, I know that you do, and I’m putting the ball in your court, you take, because I know and have faith that you can and will provide for it and work it out according to your plan.”

And, after all that, verses 7-8 warn us about the importance of keeping our own greatness in perspective. It reminds us that we shouldn’t think too much of our own genius, because when we get caught up in our own idea of how brilliant we are, we are usually setting ourselves up for a little slice of “humble pie.” We should reverence the source of our “wisdom” and give credit where credit is due. By humbly acknowledging that we are merely the channel for God’s spirit, we bring sustenance and strength to our very beings.

It’s funny how, when you really take the time to study something, how much more that can be seen, than when you make only a cursory glance, like seeing the individual threads in the tapestry, and how they work together to make a complete picture, an image that would not appear the same, if just one of the threads were only slightly different.

I guess I had a lot to say about it afterall! 🙂
~SLM