Today is Sunday, December 17th
Light two purple candles and the pink candle.
How do you like to shop? In the stores? Online? Pull out the Sunday ads (or have memories of ‘The Wish Book’?)
Have you ever ordered something online, only to be disappointed that it didn’t live up to its image?
Read Hebrews 8:4b-6, 10
[There] are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. [ESV]
Do not let me settle, God, for less than walking by Your Spirit:
When my heart is drawn by the world, Father, give me grace.
Do not let me settle, Jesus, for less than Your presence:
When my mind is distracted by the worries of life,
Holy Spirit, give me peace.
Do not let me settle, Lord, for less than unity in Your love:
When I am lost, Jesus, be my Way. Amen
Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.
I'm Madison, a member of Christ-St. Paul's.
What do you expect?
I love that image of waiting for a big box to appear on your front porch, filled with an online purchase. What if you are disappointed with the contents? Or, have you ever hoped against all hope for that special present, only to unwrap a pair of socks?
After results like these, our trust in the processes is likely to be broken.
What happens when we expect Jesus? When we view the Trinity? Does the pain from unmet hopes plague your view of our God? Faith and hope become uncomfortable, and we begin to settle for less—to settle for the shabby promises of a world lost and broken.
“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6, ESV).
But Christ has obtained something so much better than any of our past hurts or expectations. He obtained so much more than the old laws. He has claimed salvation and love and assurance for us.
“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10).
Laws, words of guidance and kindness from the Lord, written on our hearts. And He will be our God—your God, my God.
In my life, I have experienced the results of living with faulty expectations of the Lord. I have looked to other things to provide the comfort and love and truth that only my God could provide. When I realized that He was and is the God that never disappoints, is always faithful, and forever loving, my world changed.
Settling for something less than God is such a natural sort of sin, and yet it hurts us and the Lord so much.
We don’t have to live in disappointment. We don’t have to live in a constant state of settling in an effort to avoid pain. We are called to hope, to expect.
This Christmas, let us not settle. Let us run straight into the arms of our God, knowing full well than He is exactly Who we need.
Double Bonus! Turns out we had two entries for today after all...
I’m Patti. I enjoy wandering the aisles at brick and mortar stores, not necessarily looking to buy, but looking at displays and colors and connections, at how I’m being sold something. Buying, on the other hand, is usually an online activity for everything except clothes. I have yet to order anything online that has made me look like the model wearing it in the ad.
I’m Doug. I don’t shop.
Last night, full of the Christmas spirit, we looked for a movie to cap off our day. We pulled out an old favorite, ‘Lars and the Real Girl’. It’s snowy and wintry so it was Christmas-y enough for us. We laughed and cried our way through the movie, expressed again our love for the movie, then started closing up the house for the night. That’s when Patti remembered that today’s devotion was left unaccounted for.
Patti: "Hey. Looks like there’s no one to add content to tomorrow’s devotion. Maybe we could do it together."
Doug: "Sure. What’s the topic?"
Patti: "Settling for less. Like shopping for things in the catalog or online and being disappointed in the real thing once you get it. Or settling for a shadow of something instead of the real thing. And something about the new covenant and the superior ministry of Jesus. Stuff like that."
Doug: "Okay. Let’s look at it in the morning."
And with that riveting dialog, we headed off to sleep.
It’s true that clarity is more abundant in the morning, because, spoiler alert, it wasn't until today that we realized that 'settling for less' is the very plot of the movie.
The main story line is about Lars (played by Ryan Gosling), an awkwardly shy, lonely 27 year old, living in the garage of brother’s house in a very cold and desolate part of Wisconsin. His brother’s wife (played by Emily Mortimer) is determined to help him return to healthy relationships with family and friends. To compensate for his inability to love and be loved by real people, Lars goes online and orders a life-sized doll. He introduces her to his brother and sister-in-law as his girlfriend Bianca. In his delusion and desire for belonging, he fabricates a deep, meaningful relationship with Bianca, who according to Lars, is a wheel-chair bound missionary, raised by nuns whose parents died when she was a baby. The movie is rated PG-13. Nothing creepy happens. What happens instead is that the entire town, out of love for Lars, goes along with the facade and accepts Bianca, treating her as human for Lars’ sake, even giving her a makeover, hiring her as a clothing model, driving her to her volunteer work at the library, and voting her onto the school board.
At first glance, there is an obvious connection to today’s question. Lars seeks to find relationship, settling for a plastic mannequin in place of a real girl. But the deeper meaning and connection comes via the story of the townspeople. They enter into Lars’s journey, loving him unconditionally and fully, sacrificially, even gently, in spite of the ridiculousness of it all. They ascribe to Lars the love he is seeking by loving him as he is, even as Lars is unaware of his need for them. Through this cast of comical, but Christ-figure characters, Lars learns how to be touched, how to overcome fear, how to interact with others, how to receive love, and eventually (again, spoiler alert), how to love a real girl. The town loves Lars into new life.
Much like our Savior.
- Jesus enters into our journey, having left behind the glories of heaven to become flesh, infinite becoming infant.
- Jesus loves us unconditionally. He loves us so fully, so sacrificially and yet so gently in spite of our own ridiculous behavior.
- Jesus ascribes love to us, before we even know we need to be loved. He does so without forcing, without pushing, yet with relentless passion. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
We, like Lars, declare ourselves unlovable. We, like Lars, find it easier to reject, or hold at arms length such relentless love, settling instead for a shadow of the real thing. We crave laws to measure ourselves and work to make ourselves worthy. Better to be guarded than to be vulnerable; better to be safe in our deep-rooted negative self-image than to risk allowing ourselves to be loved.
This is the lesson we take from today: We want to receive the fullness of the love of Jesus… allow ourselves to be loved fully… see ourselves and others as we are seen by God, imputed with the righteousness of Jesus... loving others likewise.
As St. Augustine reflected in the 5th century: “Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem”
That is: “In loving me, you made me lovable.”