by Rev. John Farmer
A Good and Perfect Gift
Far too many of us busy ourselves at this time of year trying to find that perfect gift for someone else. Say, wonder if we might offer a new self, a new me to those with whom we work, play; those we love?
What? Is there something wrong with me?
I don’t really know about you—but I do know about the aging, white-haired, fuzzy-faced preacher over in Irvington.
Most everyone on our Christmas list already has too many things sitting about. One seldom buys clothes for others that are appreciated. Closets are chocked full of guilt-kept items. Epicurean delights really don’t delight. Money really doesn’t buy everything.
However, everyone with whom we relate could use a better “me.” We could resolve to be better Christians by Christmas, as our gift to the world. It is not an unreachable quest. It can be a journey holy.
Now, each of you is sworn to secrecy about what is to follow. The last thing I need be accused of is leaning toward Methodism… everyone knows that Baptists have all the answers—just kidding, of course. In fact, I find in almost every mainline denomination something of merit for my faith’s pilgrimage. We share a multiplicity of good. We may differ, point to point. Those latched onto the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ have it.
A forefather of our present day United Methodist Churches, John Wesley, was co-founder of a Holy Club which met for prayer, Bible study and personal reflection, all of which too many contemporary Christians disdain. Those folks sequestered in prayer over 200 years ago were spiritual pilgrims. They were Anglicans, considered most methodical in their quest for discipleship. Today we have slipped into a mode that pleads “let the preacher’s take us to heaven.” Good thought, but it doesn’t work like that. We have to accept personal responsibility for our faith and actions.
Let me suggest to us all that we look at the twenty-two questions that the members of the Holy Club asked themselves daily. Reflecting upon them, with a contrite heart, will remold us in time for our perfect Christmas. We would shine so that gift-wrapping would be a waste.
In first person, ask away:
• Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better person than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
• Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
• Do I confidentially pass on what was told to me in confidence?
• Can I be trusted?
• Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habit?
• Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
• Did the Bible live in me today?
• Do I have time to speak to me every day?
• Am I enjoying prayer?
• When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
• Do I pray about the money I spend?
• Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
• Do I disobey God in anything?
• Do I insist on doing something about which my conscious is uneasy?
• Am I defeated in any part of my life?
• Am I jealous, impure, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
• How do I spend my spare time?
• Am I proud?
• Do I thank God I am not as other people, especially the Pharisees who despised the Publicans?
• Is there anyone I fear, or dislike, or criticize, or resent? If so, what am I doing about it?
• Do I grumble and complain constantly?
• Is Christ real to me?
Buckle up, there are yet a few preparation days left until Christmas wherein we can entertain God’s claim upon us. There is no higher priority to which we should be committed. If we would get upon our knees, or rest upon our couch and ask, and ask, and ask the questions over these next few days, we will see an even more innocent babe in the manger. Our eyesight will be intensified. Our hearts will beat more steady; new life will breathe through us.
It will wean us away from the self-imposed stress of the holidays.
The Bible is a spokesman for others and how we are to treat them. We have to read it for ourselves. We will not achieve the holiness that God offers us unless we purify ourselves from within. We need a seasonal purging. God waits to hear our response to his daily call upon our lives. Then it will be a Merry Christmas.