"Do your best to get here before winter..." 2 Tim 4:21
Heading into Advent, I preached a sermon on the above text in which Paul implores Timothy to get to him before winter. Paul was in a Roman prison at the time awaiting a trial that would end in his beheading. He knew full well that if Timothy did not act on his request quickly, winter travel on the Mediterranean would shut down and he would never see his protege again. These are actually the last words we have from Paul, and we don't know if Timothy made it. I'd like to think he did, but even so, it provides us with the needed nudge of the Holy Spirit to act NOW. There are things that we know God is calling us to do, but we mistakenly assume we have all the time in the world - as if time somehow belongs to us. We don't and it doesn't. For Paul, there were three things he knew he needed to do: take care of himself physically, reconcile with another personally, and express his sincere love to Timothy deeply. What is God calling you to do NOW in this Advent season? Time marches on and we wait to take care of ourselves physically, we let long simmering wounds fester without reconciling to another because our pride won't allow it, and we let those we love the most go through life seldom ever hearing those words from our lips. Why is it that those we love the most tend to be the ones we tell the least? Stop waiting. Stop thinking you've got all the time in the world. Do it today. The Christmas season is the perfect time for taking such steps.
The corollary to #1: people are receptive to such efforts. It has been very encouraging to hear the stories that have come out of that message. A woman long estranged from her father called him. After a one hour conversation, they agreed to meet in the future in order to reconcile and redeem the years they had lost. A man decided he and his brother had been at odds long enough. During a phone call he initiated, the "issue" that led to the break in their relationship was one they could no longer even remember well. A call was all it took. And a woman decided to honor her mother in a unique way this Christmas – not the typical gifts and such – but in ways that will communicate over and over again her deep love and appreciation for all her mother has given her.
The funeral proceedings for George H.W. Bush were moving and inspiring, reminding us again of what a unique and faithful leader he was for this country. "Kinder and gentler" - what a thoughtful, heartfelt goal to lay before a nation - "a thousand points of light" - a wonderful call to service. My favorite story was to hear how beloved he was by the Secret Service detail assigned to him since leaving the White House. Bush would often rearrange his own schedule in order to ensure that his protectors could be home with their families on Christmas. The United States may do some things poorly, but we do a tremendous job of honoring our deceased Presidents.
As I thought about how our nation honored 41, I was struck by how such "honor" seems to be a passing expression in our culture. In leadership, I was taught very early that you always honor those who have come before you even if transitions have not been perfectly smooth. Whether a pastor, a board chair, a CEO, an Executive Director, whatever - you acknowledge that much has been done before you, and such sacrifice needs to be noted. It's "professionalism 101." Today, however, it seems that younger generations lean away from such action. Instead, they try to distance themselves from past leaders or criticize their actions or diminish their achievements. Millennials, feel free to push back on this as my "evidence" is only anecdotal, but I am finding it more and more - not honor, but declarations of "here's why I'm better." You may well be, but humility and basic decency still demand we honor those who forge the path we are now privileged to walk.
Speaking of honor, congratulations to my dear friend Jacob Stuart in receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Orlando Economic Partnership. Jacob is a man who has faithfully served our community for more than 30 years, always with a bedrock belief in basic human goodness. To receive even an email from Jacob is to receive a work of art and that was how he gave himself to every endeavor. Our region owes him a great debt.
I am thrilled to share that my new book, The Economy of God, will be ready for release in late January. I am in the final phases of editing/proofing. It seems to me that we have returned to some of the lax financial practices that preceded the recession, practices that led to great losses and personal pain. Our money does not have to "pierce" us as Paul said, so I thought it a good time to bring forth the unique economy God reveals in Scripture. Look forward to sharing that with you soon.
Here's to Christmas movies: It's A Wonderful Life (saw it for the first time before my Econ final, sophomore year at SMU - 1 a.m. - cried like a baby), The Family Man (not well known, but stars Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni), Love Actually (PG version) and Die Hard (hey, it happened at Christmas!)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL OBSERVATIONS: As much as I hate to give Brad Staton any fuel, Georgia was clearly in the top 4, but the committee just couldn't put in a 2 loss team. No way OU is better than UGA. Something has not been right with Urban Meyer for a long time. He is a troubled man. Gus Malzhan's $32 million buyout is the only reason he still has a job. Notre Dame is not a top 4 team. Texas overachieved this year, but should be really good next year. Glad to see a Texan win the Heisman. Semi-Finals: Alabama 56, OU 38; Clemson 41, Notre Dame 24; FINALS: Alabama 31, Clemson 28
I love the Christmas season - absolutely my favorite time of year. I hope you'll take time to join us at FPCO at some point along the way - either live, FB or streaming.
Dec 23rd - I will preach one service at 11 am; Dec 24 - Family services at 2:30 and 4, Traditional candlelight services at 6 and 8 with Genesis at 10. Merry Christmas!