Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Several weeks ago, I woke up on a Monday morning to discover my front, driver side tire was flat. Never a great way to start a new week. Especially when I had to get to the airport as quickly as possible. Apparently, I had driven somewhere the day before and went over three little nails. After throwing $30 away on an ill-fated attempt to patch the holes, it became clear that I needed a new tire. No big deal. Easy enough to fix. It’s only one tire. Except that, according to the local tire dealer, the tires I had were discontinued and hard to find. There were only a few of them left in the entire state of New Jersey, so it would be about a week before I could get it fixed. In the meantime, since it was a slow leak, they told me to just keep airing up my tires each morning. Not ideal or something I wanted to do, but only a minor inconvenience. I did that for about a week and a half. Each morning, before driving off to work, I would fill up my own tire with air. Then, at some point in the afternoon, the indicator light would come on again reminding me of the waning tire pressure issue that wouldn’t go away. I would then have a decision to make—either take my chances on making it home with a deflating tire or pull out the air compressor that was now a regular passenger in my backseat. After about 9 days of waiting for the tire people to call me back (which to this day, I still haven’t heard from them), I took my car back to the original dealership where they replaced my tire within a couple of hours and at a cheaper rate. So why am I sharing this with you? Remember, God provides teachable moments all the time and in all things!
Advent is a season of preparation and waiting. It is a season in the church year designed to fix our eyes on the coming of the Lord, the return of our Savior Jesus. Why? Because life is hard. Trying to meander through this broken creation alone, is like driving around with a tire you keep filling up yourself. It is not sustainable. It doesn’t solve the problem; it just prolongs it. No matter what self-help methods we use, our proverbial tires will still lose air. We will still go flat. At some point, the leaks will get larger, or the tire will burst. We will burst. With all the hustle and bustle of the pending month of December, it is important to safeguard our hearts and lives to prevent moments and feelings of deflation. Advent reminds us that the Savior who came before, will come again. The only way to find peace and hope, while we wait in a world of sin and evil, is to gaze upon Jesus, to peer into the abundance of mangers we find this time of the year and to confidently declare that He is coming again. We need to resist the temptations of trying to do things on our own, and simply rest in the arms of Jesus. Allow Him be the one to put air back in your tire. Spending time in prayer and devotion, grounds us in a right perspective to engage and endure a sinful world. Jesus promises to make all things new. He promises to replace all the parts of our lives that have gone flat and long stopped working. We know this will happen when He comes back, therefore we wait with eager hope for His return. In the meantime He promises to be present with us—refilling the leaking tires of our lives, to breathe life and strength back into where it is lacking. Whatever the flat tire is that you face today, stand strong in faith knowing it cannot separate you from the love and providence of our God. He is with you today. Now. And you don't even have to wait 9 days for a call back!
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
The Christmas Hallmark movies have started in our home. As much as I make fun of them—the predictable and cheesy storylines—there is something nice about a feel-good story. Truth be told, it is nice to sit down with my wife at the end of the day and consume something that is feel-good. In a world where vitriol, harshness, and criticism abound… these positive movies provide a bit of a respite from all the brokenness of reality. In an entertainment world of shootouts, raunchy sexcapades, and embarrassing “reality” television… these movies offer overwhelmingly noncontroversial means of smile-producing entertainment.
However, one thing I have observed in the first few movies we’ve watched this season, is how every actor/actress always comes down to the kitchen each morning for breakfast in unblemished form. The local maple farmer. The big-city real estate mogul. The quaint coffee shop owners. There have been no exceptions. Did they just wake up or are they fresh from the groomer and ready for a night on the town? You would never be able to guess by looking at them! No one looks disheveled or half asleep. No jammies; they’re all fully dressed and ready for the day. No crusty eyes or bedhead; they don’t have a hair out of place and the makeup is already on. No eating cereal out of the box or grabbing a quick granola bar; they all have an impressive spread of eggs, meats, pastries, and fruit. And most remarkable is that in spite of that bountiful breakfast spread, there is not a single dirty pan or plate in sight. By early morning, they already have food made, dishes washed, plus every Christmas decoration turned on and every candle lit. Impressive indeed!
Maybe this is why we like such movies. It is fun to see a place and people that seem to have it “all together” when we know this is far from the reality that we face each day. Our lives are chaotic. Our hair is a mess. Our storylines are far from predictable. Our problems don’t always end with a delightful kiss as the snow begins to fall. Hallmark actors and actresses may be unblemished, but not us. Real life is not a Hallmark movie. But this is nothing new; and it should not surprise us. “Take heart!” Jesus says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus clearly wants His followers to have peace in the midst of not-all-together lives. The Greek word for peace (εἰρήνην, eirenen) contains an idea of, not the absence of conflict or difficult times, but peace right in the middle of them. Consider the initial context of these words. With Jesus pending, arrest, mock trials, beatings and crucifixion, the disciples’ faith would be tested and weakened over the events that would soon be taking place with Jesus. They themselves would be overcome and threatened by evil. They will be filled fear and doubt. Though they were going to enjoy a nice last supper with Him, in the days that followed everything would turn south. Yet Jesus urges His disciples, then and now, to cling to Him even—and especially—when the world is crazy, and their faith is fleeting. They can still find solace and peace in Him. Jesus gives His disciples a stronghold and hope in Him before the storm arises.
He gives us hope too. Hopes of peace in the midst of whatever it is we may have to go through or even be going through right now. Jesus did say we will have tribulation; there is no heartache-free plotline. But He also says, "in me you may have peace.” So, fill up your hot cocoa mug, put on your comfy clothes, and enjoy those Hallmark Christmas movies. But when the credits start to roll, know that you have something better than a happy, cliché-filled ending. You have something that is real. You have Jesus and His “peace which surpasses all understanding, and it will guard your hearts and your minds” in Him. (Philippians 4:7)
Pastor Steve Vera