You wouldn’t think he was speaking to a gathering of elderly people, some in wheelchairs, some unable to talk, others afflicted by dementia or Alzheimer’s.
His hands gesticulating in the air, his voice passionately describing some deep concept, then the blackboard and the chalk: “Who can tell me what peace means? You, Alberto, yes, tell me and I’ll write it down. Wonderful! Come on, everyone, we’ll send this to the local newspaper!”
I love reading invigorating stories of people who have started NGOs, founded orphanages, adopted foster kids, created fair-trade organizations, or pulled off some other world-changing feat. But as inspiring as these people are, most of us aren’t called to that kind of mission. We’re in one place, woven through a family and a community, living pretty low-key lives.
Whenever I log in to Facebook or load a news website—or when I glance at the newsrack at the checkout—it seems there are always some really ugly things going on, and I find myself oscillating between anger and despair.
As I scroll through my social media feeds, there are comments like, “This is so sad!” or “I hate that this is happening!” While I agree with those statements, I can’t help but feel that they’re a bit useless. How does saying that we dislike catastrophic issues help the people whose lives are being turned upside down because of them?
God’s unconditional love has no bounds, is unchanging and without limitations. It is given freely, no matter what. Each of us has sinned, and sin brings separation from God. Nevertheless, God loves us. It doesn’t mean He loves all that we do, but He loves us. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He made it possible for the breach caused by our sins and wrongdoing to be bridged through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1
The air was heavy with impending rain as I made my way on foot through Chiba, Japan. As I glanced at the low gray clouds, I chided myself for not bringing an umbrella. It seemed that in a minute or two the heavens would burst open, but two minutes came and went.
Jesus gave a simple command: “Love your neighbor.”1 However, “neighbor” is pretty vague, and some wise guy asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”2 Jesus answered with the story about a traveler on the way to Jericho who was ambushed by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two people passed him by but didn’t stop to help.3
I can speculate on what each might have been thinking as he passed that poor guy on the side of the road.
The ringing of my phone interrupted my quiet evening drive. It was a close friend on the other end, “Marie, I need you to pray for me!” She only had a few minutes to talk, just enough time to tell me about the very stressful things going on in her life, and I assured her that I would pray for her. After she hung up, I prayed for her out loud for the rest of my drive.
Sometimes I feel paralyzed by all the suffering in the world. There’s simply no way I could make a dent in all the hunger, sickness, poverty, depression, oppression, loneliness, and death. When you look at the brokenness in its entirety, all you see is desolation.
It was my first Christmas in Taipei, Taiwan, when I heard the Christmas classic “Silent Night” sung in Chinese for the first time. It made a special impression, and I remember thinking that I had to learn the words. The first line was fairly easy—after all, half of it is the song title—but beyond that it got harder.
Another Christmas is almost here, and if you’re like most people, you’re probably so busy with all that goes into Christmas that you haven’t yet found much time to stop and think about “the reason for the season.” Well, here’s your chance! This issue of Activated is all about putting the meaning and joy back into Christmas.