Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Savior, Not a Souvenir

Photo courtesy of Leah Wolf
Christmas began for me back in August this year. It had nothing to do with the onslaught of summertime Christmas in July sales or a desire to join the ranks of those who were finished with their holiday shopping before Halloween had even come and gone. What brought it on was a passage of Scripture that presented itself as an unexpected gift.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a star appeared in the sky over the place of His birth. Wise men traveled from a distant land in search of the Babe, following the star. Their arrival in Jerusalem and subsequent questions about the location of this newborn King of the Jews disturbed the reigning king, Herod. So he arranged a meeting with them, and “then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go and search for the Child carefully, and diligently, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him” (Matthew 2:8 AMP).

There were the three words that struck me: Bring me word.

None of the family and friends who have sent me off on various trips has ever asked me to bring back word. Other things, yes; a rock was one rather unusual request, and I've bought lots of shot glasses to bring home to collectors, as well as other souvenirs to give as gifts for those waiting on my return. But word? Not so much. Intelligence gathering has rarely been a priority in my personal travel agenda. Perhaps the difference is that Herod was not a well-wisher wanting to enter into the joy of the event as he claimed, but rather an insecure monarch wanting to retain his reign by killing off any threat to his throne before it had a chance to gain ground. The Magi received direction in a dream to ignore the order they'd been given, and went home by a different route.

Most recently before a trip to visit one of my sons, a friend made a light-hearted request that I bring her back a keychain bearing the name of the place that I'd been. After it was delivered to her she later showed me where it hung on her purse, along with others she had received from travelers to different states and countries. A unique display idea, it intrigued me. So I was surprised when the Holy Spirit nudged me one morning and said I had one, as well. Quickly He reminded me that daily I travel to a different realm to visit with my Father, and I bring back memories from those moments with His Son that I write excitedly about in my journal, sometimes illustrating the same with pictures that remind me later of what we talked about while there. Each entry is a link in the chain that hangs about my life, bearing the Name, not of a place, but of the Person I've been with that day and holding the keys to an existence of joy and wonder and gained wisdom that I then apply to my earthly existence. When I bring Jesus back into my daily life, I've truly brought back Word.

The wonder of this is that it is not just a seasonal experience, but one that can take place every single day of the year. The Bible tells us that as we abide in Him, He abides in us, and thus what began as journal entries eventually become living messages to other people that they read in our daily interactions with them. Oh, to be so full of God that we bring Word of His love and passion for people simply by standing beside them in a line somewhere, bumping into them in the grocery store or working side-by-side with them on an assigned project at work.

My friend told me later that most people don't take her seriously when she makes her souvenir request. They take it as just a form of well-wishing before they leave on their trips. And to my shame I've done the same. Coworkers and complete strangers alike have asked me about the joy I have inside of me, intrigued by a smile in difficult situations or a laugh despite my circumstances. And I've shrugged it off as just a form of small talk or a compliment of sorts. Yet the truth is that people all around us are desperate for the hope and help and truth we carry inside.

Perhaps there is no better illustration of such hunger than in the story of Simeon, a devout man who was desperate to see the promised Savior before he died and had received a supernatural promise that this would happen. Prompted by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple one day, he was there when Mary and Joseph arrived to present their newborn to the Lord. The young parents literally brought the Word of God made flesh and placed Him in Simeon's arms.

God simply asks us to do the same. As our mailboxes and newspapers overflow this time of year with ads and sale fliers may we remember that people around us are not searching for a good deal so much as the real deal...and what a deal it is! Christ was born in a manger that He might be reborn in our hearts, and then born anew in every moment and experience in which we behold Him. Talk about a gift exchange...our captivity for His freedom, our shame for His honor...our end for a new beginning in Him.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(John 1:1 NIV)

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