Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cambodia and Christmas...

Today I was reading a devotional about when Jesus came into town....

In a nutshell, it was a time of celebration and the blind man was calling out and "becoming an embarrassment" so people were telling him to hush. (Luke 18:40) But Jesus stopped and called out to him. 

For some reason, as I read that devotion my mind raced back to my visit to Cambodia two years ago. It seems like so long ago and yet like yesterday. 

We had gone to help with Hard Places Ministries, a group that shares hope with the children and abused of the Phnom Penh. While we were there, the city was getting ready for a celebration. I don't remember what it was, but those in charge were obviously making sure they showed their best possible side. City streets were being cleaned up for the upcoming celebration and the police were in the park gathering up the "embarrassments" and running them out of town.  This was not the time to allow the ugly side of the city to be seen. 

Yet it was for that "ugly" part that we had come. 

We were there to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We hoped that in some small way, we could help those we encountered realize that Jesus saw them and cared. We walked into dark hallways to reach cramped dirty rooms that served as home to so many. We prayed and listened to people that struggled just to survive. We sat on concrete floors and shared hope at every chance we could. We taught and sang praises to Jesus at the base of a Buddhist shrine. We gave food to hungry children and the message of hope to any who would listen (which included, by the way, the very police who were there to "clean things up.")

As I read that devotional today, I was reminded of Cambodia...and Christmas.

I don't know about you, but Christmas brings out the Martha Stewart in me. Okay, maybe more like the "Oh my gosh, I've got to make this special somehow" side of me. I clean the house. Stuff our junk into closets, (oh come on! I can't be the only one that does that!) and put out our finest for all to see. I buy too much, eat too much, and stay up way too late. It's Christmas and everything is supposed to be merry and bright. I try to find the perfect gifts (which I never do - I am lousy at gift giving!) I try to cook, something else I am lousy at; and I try to create that picture of what I think Christmas is supposed to be. 

The imperfect parts, well, I try and tell those parts to "hush" and hide them away...time to put up the lights and make it look like all is merry and bright. 

For many, Christmas is not really a time of "celebration". There are too many hurts. Too many unresolved dreams. Too much life that has happened. Perhaps they've even given up trying to pretend that it's all alright. They figure, like those people in Cambodia, that they will simply be hidden away till the celebration is over...trying to survive.

And then comes Jesus.

He stops. He calls out. Those that have been hidden away are called to the front, not to be embarrassed but to be embraced. He says "come to Me" and be given rest. Suddenly, "the soul feels its worth."

Jesus sees the beautiful. He sees the merry and bright...but He also sees the worn and weary. 

He doesn't look away. He came...that is what Christmas is all about. 

To paraphrase a line from The Grinch...He came just the same. 

O Holy night....long lay the world, in sin and error pining...till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. (O Holy Night)

I don't have an end to this blog...perhaps it's because when Jesus stops and calls out to us, the story has just begun. Merry Christmas y'all.

 (To read the devotional by Ron Hutchcraft that inspired today's blog, click this link: Bare Feet, Boots, and A Man in Blue )

Luke 18: 35-43 (Message)
35-37 He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by.”
38 He yelled, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
39 Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?”
41 He said, “Master, I want to see again.”
42-43 Jesus said, “Go ahead—see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.

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