Jolly old Jesus, lean your ear this way…. Have a Holly Jolly Jesus… Yes, we need a little Jesus, right this very minute…
That’s what the lyrics would read for me if I had my way.
What a conundrum. Zen Buddhism is trendy. Judaism is classic and Islam has automatic politically correct deference.
I choose Jesus, literally a swear word for many people right up there with s**t and f**k.
And who are the most visible compatriots the world calls Christianity? Nut jobs and politically conservative zealots.
What’s worse, my life circumstances, my personal plotline reads, “If you follow Jesus, your temporal situation will be crap and many times go from bad to worse.”.
So why do I stick with Jesus?
Because God has been faithful on four separate Dec 15th’s. AND because beyond the nut jobs is ‘so great a cloud of witnesses’: others who follow Jesus and live as he has breathed into them to live.
December 15, 1982 I lay on the couch in our living room staring at the sheers, virtually paralyzed from the waist down. I was the Director of Christian Education, Youth Director and Director of the Daycare at a local church. “Lord, I serve you all day long and I don’t even know who you are. I will do anything to not live like this anymore. I want you to be so real that when I reach out my hand I can feel yours in mine.”
Within two weeks, I was back at work and the long journey to an authentic relationship with Jesus had begun. God events. Kairos revelatory moments that answered my prayer in the affirmative.
But first he had to let my heart be broken because I had sealed it off from feeling pain lest I despair and break. I didn’t know the key to a relationship with Jesus is a broken heart, a real heart, an authentic heart. In that way I fit right in with the world. But Jesus is not about fitting in with the world. And so he sent me to follow his Light.
December 15 2008 Bruce Larson died. A devastating personal loss. You see after that prayer was uttered I spent ten years in a church that was having a golden era of Jesus under Bruce’s leadership. Everybody rejoiced in believing Jesus. I came to know him.
Then I got sent to a small rural church where Jesus as the Son of God dying an atoning death and raised again was not preached. Preach it I did and people outside the church heard and began to come because they were both curious and hungry. The old guard didn’t like it and a colleague from overtown called me to say I was one of four pastors being targeted to be pressured out because of my faith in Jesus.
The campaign succeeded after all manner of lies and deceits and Bruce stood by me in ways that made me stay with my faith and the ministry and believe good would come after bad. He called, he wrote, he asked me to come visit. We worked on a writing project I had devised and best yet, he told me of the times he had been targeted and pressured and encouraged me to believe. Jesus is real. Jesus is alive.
December 15, 2012 I am buried in pillows listening to the day after reports of Sandy Hook. The day before, when first the news hit, I had knitted myself into comfort sitting in the same place trying to make sense of violence. Ironically I was in the middle of one of the most violent personal attacks I had ever endured. Because I am a woman and because of my faith, someone resented me and it built into hatred and then attacked me almost daily and no one in charge would believe me or set limits with them. “Please, Lord, deliver me”, I whispered.
December 15, 2013 God did deliver me. I left my peaceful abode where I am safe and went to church because of the gift of someone who paid my ferry fee for a Christmas present. There was the group with whom I sing at the Skyline memory care facility once a month rejoicing in the gift of music for those who have lost almost all their bearings. A baby is baptized, the first daughter of one of the Skyline couples with whom I have sung. A pastor who had once prayed publicly that my light for Jesus would never go out performs it. Bruce’s wife Hazel is there. A friend has just gotten engaged. Some kiddlings I care for are there and we delight in seeing each other. There is warmth, there is Joy and there is Hope for people in every circumstance. So great a cloud of witnesses.
To some of you this holiday is Santa and goodwill. To others it’s family gatherings. To some it’s a non-holiday. To me, it’s the birth of my friend, my redeemer, and my shepherd.
I don’t ask you to believe. I don’t want to stop conversations with other faiths. I just ask this one thing this Christmas. Please don’t use Jesus’ name as a swear word anymore. You wouldn’t say ‘Buddha!’. You wouldn’t say ‘Krishna!’. You wouldn’t say ‘Muhammad!’. To me Jesus gives literal life, meaning, depth, purpose and fellowship.
Just that one thing I ask. Please just respect his name, even if it means nothing to you. To some of us, it means everything.
And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.