A friend of mine tells a story about a couple in the church where he served that was perpetually ticked off at the church (or him).
It would be pretty consistent that he would receive an email from them stating why they were upset. (This was in the days before texts, I’m sure he was grateful for that!)
It started with their disdain for the church plans to expand to include a homeless ministry.
“We shouldn’t support “those people” . . . it’s their fault they are homeless. The church should not enable that but instead teach them a lesson.
Or . . .
“Why don’t these church people DO more? The people here are just apathetic. We shouldn’t have to spend money on x, y, and z because if everyone DID what they were supposed to do, the things would already be there.”
Or . . .
“People in this church just aren’t friendly. We walk past people on Sundays and they just don’t speak. You need to do a better job teaching people to be nice to each other. People leave us out.”
Then, tragedy came and her husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack. She was alone.
In the days following the husband’s death the church truly rallied and showed what it meant to embody Jesus in the life of someone.
Through the next week someone from the church spent the night at her home each night so that she would not have to be alone.
Her cabinets were full with groceries and the refrigerator was full of food.
The freezer had meals to last hear for two months, all labeled and packaged appropriately.
The pastor noted in worship a few weeks later where her husband typically sat, another person from the church sat beside her, so she was not alone.
The next morning he saw her name in his inbox and he told me he thought, “Oh wow! I bet this is going to be a nice email, telling me how grateful she is to have been a part of a church family.”
He was wrong.
When he opened the email he read how unhappy she was with the people of the church because they had too many chicken casseroles.
She was unhappy because she had too much of one thing.
Sometimes in life we are not happy with the gifts we’ve been given.
Either they don’t live up to what we expect them to be, so instead of seeing the beauty in them we only see the negative.
Or . . . because we have astronomical expectations, no gifts are ever enough.
Some people turn away from God and God’s love because the “gift” God brings doesn’t fit into what they expect it to be.
That is one reason we have to be careful of what we expect!
God doesn’t promise ease of life.
God doesn’t promise financial prosperity.
God doesn’t promise ongoing good health.
God promises love. God is Love.
So that when we go through the difficult times of life, financial hardship, and health challenges we have an opportunity to connect with the oneness of God that lives in each of us and recognize that we are not alone. That we are held together by Love. And in being held in love we are called to respond in love.
Where are situations in your life today that you could respond with peace and love rather than negativity?
In doing so, you will be living out the gift of the Christ child.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.