A gift came to me in the mail yesterday. It wasn't tied up in ribbons, or something that I can hold in my hands. It was a card written in the shaky script of a lovely old gentleman who wanted to let me know how he felt blessed by me and my work in this past year. It is probably the most precious gift I think any of us can get or give.
Sometimes people ask me what my faith in Christ means to me, and why I align myself with a religion that has been the instigator of pain as well as joy, and why I put belief in something so ridiculously intangible and frankly, unbelievable. I would have to say, that my experience with this gentleman can perhaps serve as an illustration better than any theological argument. Simply, my faith means acting out love and relationship the way Christ modelled.
It means coming alongside someone who is hurting, and walking with them as they struggle with life's blows. It means loving them in person and through prayer. It means acting in faith that the nature of the relationship and support that is provided will be enough. It means persevering and trusting God even when I am exhausted and emotionally drained and feel like quitting and wonder why in the hell I ever agreed to this in the first place. It means showing up and prepping and planning and schlepping and attending meetings even when all I really want is to be at home with a good book. It means struggle and victory and using my talents and stretching my weak points. It means serving others without expecting anything in return (although to be acknowledged, is icing on the cake). It means living every day as if the most important thing there is, is love.
Most of all, though, these verses help sum up why I am a Christ-follower, and why I rejoice at Christmas:
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us. But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (from The Message, Eugene Peterson's translation).
May you love extravagantly! It is the best gift.