Last week we celebrated Christmas all over the world and for many people that meant going to Christmas Eve church services. As a pastor of a church I often think about how important that these services can be for people that during the season will come and check out church. I mean if you are involved with volunteering at a church or on staff you have probably seen the investment that comes with getting ready for Christmas Eve. There are decorations, there is lighting, there is sound, the right songs, cookies, people dressed up for Christmas, and stuff for the kids. All of these things are not bad and they can be important for what you are doing at Christmas time. But this year I saw something that has challenged and changed my heart.
You see this year as we were all getting ready that night for Christmas Eve services at our church in Aurora. There were things that really caught my attention you see we had some places that didn’t have enough volunteers, there were some places that didn’t have the right volunteers, heck can I be honest there were places that didn’t have any volunteers. So as I was trying to figure out how to handle the volunteer issue I do what so many other pastors do in this case, I voluntold my son to help me out. Which he did with out a question, ok maybe with one question. Why? I told him that he is in the best place to make a difference during our Christmas Eve services. These words were so true, more than I would have ever known.
You see we had a man show up right about the time I was getting ready to go on stage to speak that was high and very drunk. We do live in CO so the high part is never a shock but the drunk part well that was hard for us all to see. So I as walked on stage I saw one of our elders, my son along and his college friend start to deal with this man. At least that is what I thought.
The truth of the matter is that they took some amazing time to care for this man. What my son shared with me was that this man had just walked in because he saw all the people walking in and heard the music. He told my son that he was feeling lost and so lonely that he thought I might as well walk in there. My son, his friend, and our elder gave him something to eat (cookies are important), then gave him a cup of coffee, and talked with him. Even helped him walk into the auditorium for a chance to hear silent night and watch the candles being lit, after he had fallen twice just trying to sit in a chair in our lobby area.
So when the service was over I came out to meet people and make sure everything was going ok. Well the man had wanted to go have a smoke in the parking lot (nothing new at this church), so my son and his friend went with him. Out there he shared with my son that he had been smoking weed all day and had been drinking with different people he knew all day. That he was lonely and just hurting. Then my son told me the man then proceeded to vomit up the cookies and the coffee. All the while my son stood with him and made sure that he was ok, even patting him on the back as he got sick. The man being very embarrassed, put out his smoke, hugged my son said thank you for listening and caring then walked away towards the street. My son and his friend followed the man to the street making sure that he was safe as he disappeared up the street into the darkness.
My son came back and told me how bad he felt for that man and that he was sorry that they couldn’t have done more.
To be honest as a father and pastor I have never been more proud of my son, our elder, and his friend. Because the truth of the matter is that in many other places and yes churches this man would have been seen as a problem and a nuisance. But on this Christmas Eve he was cared for he was fed and he was invited in to see and hear about the birth of Jesus. So what challenged and changed for me this Christmas Eve? I have always thought about making sure that we are prepared for the people that are coming to check out church. But in all honesty I have never thought about the people that might literally stumble into our church. So it challenged me to start thinking about the people that stumble in that are in need for something other then a church service, especially on Christmas Eve. It has changed me because as I stood on the stage and talked about how the shepherds that came and found Jesus were the outsiders in the community. We had the exact same thing going on right in our lobby. It has changed me because I want us to think about how we can have Christmas Eve services for those that are high, stumbling drunk, and lonely this next year. It changed me because of what an amazing man my son has become and how he cares for the people that no one else wants to care for in this world. It changed me because the elder of our church could have really been more worried about getting the guy out of the building instead of caring for him. He cared for him. It changed me because my sons friend who I know is struggling with the question of faith watched faith in action.
If this would have happened at your church how do you think people would have responded? What can you do next Christmas Eve to make sure that your community of faith is ready for the high, the stumbling drunk, and the lonely that might show up?
Over the last couple of weekends we have been going through a series called “Built 4 Life”. We are going through the different areas of the bible that talk about living a healthy lifestyle. So as we talked about health we came upon the idea that as followers of Jesus our health is an act of respect to God himself. So the statement that we are thinking ont this week is:
“Respect the building, respect the builder.”
So what does that look like for us and everyday living:
- Excercise: Take some small steps this week to get in the discipline of exercise. Start small and work up to something that will continue to encourage health.
- Experience God With a Healthy Life: For people who are called followers of Jesus this means that you are to worship God with a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:19. Remember you are not your own.
- Extend Life’s Opportunities: This is where our health and the way we live can put us in a position to do great things with opportunities that God places in our life. We are built for so much more than we are doing now.
So what are some things that you can do this week to start living a healthier lifestyle? List something here in the comments section.
If you would like to see the message from this last weekend then just click here. (Built 4 Life)
I recently read an article that was posted by a local news channel on twitter. It disturbed me!
Here is the cliff notes of the story (Read it here). There is a woman who has been a part of a movement of people who are trying to keep a local building from being torn down. So in an effort to save the building from being torn down this woman with the support of the people around here decides to marry the building. Now at first I thought this is interesting. But the more I thought about the more bothered I became that marriage today has become more of a punchline to a joke then a commitment that is to be made between a man and a woman to God.
Michelle and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in May. I don’t want one the best things in my life, my marriage to my best friend to be a punch line in a joke or a way to save a building from being destroyed. It is my hope that for the many of those of us that have had marriages that are a powerful statement to commitment and to marriage before God will continue to encourage those around us to see marriage as important. It is my hope that as we lead in our homes and in our commuities that people will see the joy that comes from a marriage that is based in God’s love for one another and a commitment to live together through the good and bad is important. Just a little fired up!
What do you think?
Have you ever noticed the feeling you get while you are in an empty house? Whether the house has just been moved out of or even if no one has ever moved in. That there is just a different feeling that comes with an empty.
The question is what kind of emotion do you get about being in the empty house? Maybe you are the person that has emotions of anticipation. Some people see an empty house and can envision the future parties that will happen there, they can see the family memories that will be created between Father and son or Mother and daughter. They can even see the life change that comes with being in that house.
Maybe you are the person that has emotions of devastation. That this house is a place that is void of life, that for some reason or another the family that once was there is now gone and never coming back. Maybe that the house is empty because of the lose of someone’s life.
Which person are you? Are you the person of anticipation of the person of devastation? I think that we bring these same emotions with us to the places that we call church. Now I want to be clear I use the church right now to refer to the building where many church bodies meet. But at no time do I want people to think that I see the building as the church, the church is the people that make up that place. But don’t you think people bring those emotions with them to church. That either they are involved in a service in the anticipation of God showing up and doing something amazing. OR They come with the emotion that God is there laying and waiting to just devastate them. Heard this statement; “If I were to show up at church God would strike me dead.” or “The building would probably cave in if I came to church.”
It is my prayer that we don’t see the devastation but the anticipation when it comes to the gathering of those that we call Elevation Christian Church their home. And what I want people to know whether the house is full or whether the house is empty God is always there and able to show up and do what He wants, that we will not rate the ability of God by the availability of people’s butts in seats. That we will always see that our time together will be held together with the emotion of ANTICIPATION.