Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas and the potential of, and protection for, our children

So it's almost Christmas. Arrived in Miami three days ago and was welcomed by a cold front the day after. In the forties. It's cold..brrrr, although, thank God, today was much warmer. Have not been able to watch much news here as this is grandchildren country. And they monopolize the television. Especially when they are one and two year year olds. Glimpsed the Miami Herald briefly today and read about a another case of someone " going off at the deep end", and gathering an arsenal of guns to defend himself from attack. Thank God this case ended without loss of life. But apparently it was close. Not even Twitter I had much time to check. Children are special but grandchildren trump everybody. Especially girls. So we did not have much time to delve into world and local affairs in the last couple of days.
Yes, before I left home, Americans were still grappling with post New Town shock and horror, burying their dead with much angst and pain. And anger. Heard that President Obama, in an no nonsense mood, delegated to to VP Joe Biden the awesome task of coming up with plans to deal with gun control. Not in the distant future, but " right now". The Syrians rebels are still struggling against the Bashir regime , and reportedly getting help from elements of Al Qieda, while the governing forces are being backed by Iranian fighters. Thus posing serious challenges for American foreign policy in that area.
Back in Jamaica, we are still awaiting the conclusion of a deal with the IMF, while the country languishes economically.
But in the midst of all of that, the Christmas Carols are playing, hordes of people are shopping, the Christmas cakes my wife brought up are almost done - everybody loves grandma's baking - dinner parties, and dancing parties are on in earnest, and presents are already being opened.
In fact it was while watching a video of a birthday party of one of my grandchildren that a Word came from the Lord this week. And which message was sent to a group of journalists with whom I have been having an online
" conversation" about " the correct faith".
Last night for the first time I watched the youtube version of the Gangnam Style which has literally taken the world by storm - one billion plus views and counting. Early this morning I awoke with the words of one of the most popular Christmas Carols, " Once on Royal David's City" on my mind. So off I went to youtube and watched it also - max of any version, three hundred thousand views.
And then the thought came into my mind, that this kind of comparison is really a metaphor for the stark choice that humankind faces. Gangnam Style or Once in a Royal David City! What this world has to offer, or He Who came down from Heaven. The choice that all of us must make for ourselves and our children. Which one will you make, especially for your children?
For them to grow up following; "a girl who gets hotter when the night comes" and " a guy whose heart bursts when the night comes": or a child who " through his wondrous childhood would honor and obey" , his dear mother, and because day by day like us he grew " he feeleth for our sadness, and he shareth in our gladness."?
I would suggest to you, that these are not ordinary questions for most of you who hold the exalted position of being the, "keeper of the gates", through which news is channeled to that segment of humankind living in Jamaica. But rather existential questions for both you and your viewers and listeners and readers. I pray God that you will chose wisely as you read the words of both songs - googled, cut and pasted below - which for most of you, would already be familiar words.
And to posit that the " magic of the popular video is in the rapid fire clips and the music, rather than the words, which, " gets into people's heads", is only to make the choice even more urgent and profound, as this is precisely the objective of the marketeers of what this world has to offer, " to get inside the heads of our children, and us too". And to what end! Compare that objective with the Promise of the Creator God as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, words which just came " into my head". And as I went searching for them instead I found this:
" This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." Deut 30:19-20 NIV.
English Translation:
Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style
A girl who is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist
I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh
A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensable girl like that
I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
You know what I’m saying
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.
He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.
For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
My children, and grandchildren, thus far, have been the beneficiaries of a solid education, built on the foundation of their Jamaican experience. And thank God, in a time of great uncertainty, in America, and even worse back home in Jamaica, they have stable jobs. So I have much to be thankful for about their life here in the USA. But I wondered, as I went through the mall yesterday, watching people totally absorbed in the material culture; as I overheard the ( spontaneous and apparently unprovoked) profanity while shopping yesterday; as I observed the many cars parked in the driveways whilst on the way to church, I wondered about what will happen to my grandchildren here in America.
What kind of life will they lead? How will they be influenced by this very powerful culture? Will they choose the way of the gangnam style like lifestyle or will the words of Once in a Royal David's city rule their lives? Only time will tell.
And we know, without a doubt that God can protect His people anywhere. This was a comforting Word from the Lord this week, as I was led to read and reflect on the words of the following Psalm:
" If the Lord had not been on our side -
let Israel say -
If the Lord had not been on our side,
when men attacked us,
when their anger flared against us,
they would have swallowed us alive;
the flood would have engulfed us
the raging waters would have swept us away..
Praise to the Lord who has not us be torn by their teeth....."
Psalm 122: 1-6 NIV
The death of the children in Connecticut is not a simple matter of gun control and parental responsibility. The fact is that the devil is after our children to destroy them, in the same way when Herod was told of Jesus' birth on that first Christmas, his plan was to kill him. For who knows what plans God has for them! But God warned the shepherds not to go back the way they had come after following the star and finding the Christ child. And then Rachael "mourned for her children", as Herod in a fit of anger, having being outwitted, then ordered the death of all the first born boys.
So we have to ensure that, like Israel, " the Lord is on our side", so that evil ones will not just lead our children astray, but destroy them. How?
One sure way is to adopt Mary's reaction to the news shared by the angels, as recorded in Luke gospel, which was the subject of an intriguing sermon today at St. Matthews Aglican church in South Miami.
Having been reassured that God can do the impossible - cause her a virgin to be with child - Mary's obedient and trusting response was, " Let is be unto me according to thy word". Luke 1:38. The preacher explained that this was the reason why Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ. Because she had a heart for God. Not because she had any special personality or beauty or intelligence. Further, that like Mary, David was so chosen over his brothers, because he was a man after God's own heart, " And God looks on the heart, and not on the outside".
So let us humble ourselves before God with a believing and obedient heart. A thought which was the subject of a message to a few of my church leaders this week, sent with great care.
I was led to read and reflect on John 6, again, this morning. And to understand the full context in which the Gift of Holy Communion was promised and prophesied. From the bread of heaven given by God, not by Moses, in the desert - manna - to the true Bread of heaven - Christ Himself.
And which promise has been fully accepted in the Anglican tradition. But there is another matter. The realization that Jesus knew who would accept and reject that central doctrine. And then came these profound words. " That's why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him" John 6:65 NIV. Wow!
The question then arises, why would God enable some and not others? The answer came into my head without any thought.
" God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble"
1 Peter 5:5 NIV
Further: " Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time". The next verse.
Comment. With great care. One explanation, from the Word of God, why many, within the church, and perhaps even within the leadership of the church, are not only unbelieving, but in their action betray Christ, is this issue of lack of humility. Having served in many positions of leadership of different kinds, I know that, and have seen, how such exalted positions can lead to pride - The very death of the Christian life. As in such a state, God will not enable us to come to Christ. Although outwardly, we might claim Christ, inwardly we are far from Him.
I pray God that all of us might escape from the devil's plan to lure us into the camp of the proud - it is not hard as our sinful nature makes us so vulnerable, and so " prone to wander" - and thus prevent us truly feeding, with faith and reality on the true Bread of God, Who only can protect us, and the entire church from evil. Thank God for Jesus and His mercy. Thank God for the gift of humility which we must nurture without ceasing, even as we pray without ceasing, lest we fall into temptation.
LWJ Sent from my iPad
So we too, this Christmas season, have to cultivate " a heart for God", even if we think that we are unworthy, and the Lord will use us, as He did with Mary and David, to do great things for him. And not only to protect our children from evil. Who knows then, as the preacher observed, who knows what great contribution to humankind, to peace in our world, to the reduction of poverty in the world, to the rescuing of people from darkness unto life eternal, will a child brought up in the fear of the Lord achieve.
All because of Christmas, which trumps all news on earth. And which true celebration is fully manifest not in malls, or in parties, or the exchange of gifts, but in the stirring of the human heart which responds to the life, death and resurrection of Mary's little child. Amen.
Merry Christmas when it comes - as we say in Jamaica - on Tuesday.