Summary: 3rd Sunday of Advent with our focus on the way we gather during these Holy Days.
I like Jeopardy. I sometimes can recall an amazing amount of useless information so it’s a pretty fun game to play along with at home. I don’t know everything to be sure. When I took the Graduate Record Exam for Political Science they asked some pretty strange questions like, "Who was Secretary of War under Zachery Taylor?" For those of you who don’t know it is George W. Crawford [I had to Google it to find out]. I read the question and remember thinking, "That is why they make up lists of things." Some of us couldn’t come up with a list of 10 cabinet posts let alone the names of those who served under President Regan.
But here’s a list that pretty easy to come up.
Think of five people you really like to spend time with.
Name ten people who taught you something worthwhile
Name three friends who let you down at a pivotal point in your life
Name four teachers who have influenced you’re life today
Name a family member who will cause or prolong a disturbance during a family get-together.
Now those are easier lists to come up with aren’t they? That’s because it’s always easier to recall those with whom we have a common history. If you haven’t had them yet the next couple of weeks will have various gatherings we’re invited too. Family times, job parties, get-togethers with friends, shopping expeditions and probably a few others I haven’t thought of. Some we look forward too. Others we may dread.
Most of us hope, believe, and pray that they will be good times. No one, that I know, says, "Boy I can’t wait for the police to show up at this family dinner. It’s the highlight of the season." Yet the sad fact of life is that many family trees grow in a dark forest of dysfunctionality. And into this forest, often blows a gale force wind called holidays that tears some people apart. So how do we avoid that? How do we honor Jesus as we gather with others?
Some choose the Lucy Van Pelt approach. Her motto was "I love humanity, its people I can’t stand." A much better way is to embrace the differences and strangeness inherent in everyone. There are also those who avoid others simply because the past year, or even decade, seems to have handed them too much to handle. Death, a job lost, or an illness can set one back on their heels so that they believe they don’t want to be around others.
In the Bible there are many sections which are called, "household codes", like this passage in Colossians 3. The intent is to show how a husband, wife, child, parent, slave, owner etc is to live together as followers of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, Paul is writing these things to people like churches in Colossae and Corinthian because they were having problems. But if you visualize, for a moment, what a gathering would be like where everyone worked hard to be gentle, kind, humble, and patient you will see a picture more glorious than anything Thomas Kinkaid could paint. If we gathered with those who forgave without holding onto a grudge, who were guided by a code of self-sacrificing love we’d experience times with friends and families that weren’t full of anxiety but peace.
How does one Season our Gatherings? First of all, we have to recall clearly that Christ is near. It doesn’t matter if the rest of office or families aren’t believers, what matters is what you do as a follower of Jesus. The start of Colossians, Paul tells us we are responsible to "set our hearts" and our "minds on things above". God makes the changes in our lives happen. No guy can keep away from lustful thoughts without a constant work of the Holy Spirit in their life. Likewise, ladies have a hard time not falling into gossip and pride without the same power at work. But what allows the Spirit to make the changes is our being willing to be touched, transformed and made over. Likewise, it is being in a place where we are teachable by God that can make all the difference in the fruit we bear.
How does God teach us? One obvious way is the Bible. Yet pollster George Gallup Jr. once remarked, “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” 1 This is because a survey showed that 51% of Americans could not name the first book of the Bible, 79% could not name a single prophet of the Old Testament, and 65% of Americans could not name Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you want your gatherings to reflect Christ-like love you’ve got to be feeding your soul and spirit with God’s word, it’s just that simple.