Monday, December 14, 2009

Reducing The Distance At Christmas

Pilate stands in front of Jesus, saying, “… ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.” (Mark 15:4 & 5, NRSV)

He and I, both.

I have been looking at Jesus’ death in Mark. There are a few questions that He did answer,

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” - Mark 15:2, NRSV

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ” – Mark 14:60 & 62, NRSV

This is the way that Jesus defends Himself. He didn’t.

I have heard so many hearts that are heavy over the holidays. Some of us are not going into a Christmas extending beyond the stereotypical holiday TV special. It is like celebrating in the mall, pretty but hygienic and void. I have been thinking a lot about this. It can be a stressful time for believers, even a time where we are called to defend our celebration of Jesus.

After thinking about this, I hypothesize that we are accused, questioned, and even attacked for others to avoid dealing with God.

Bear with me. I started running a little while, ago. I do enjoy the feeling after the run. I also love how it gets you in shape, quickly. If you told me that you wanted to become a runner, though, I would not suggest getting trained by a girl 14 weeks into this program and a year out of back surgery.

I am not a perfect, or even a good runner. You need to join a gym, or ask someone who does marathon running to really get into this sport. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my form is horrible. My breathing would be embarrassing to a more trained athlete, and I probably need to learn more to keep from hurting myself. To learn what you need to know, you should go to the pros…not me.

In an awkward way, this translates to my point.

In this world we all share the same thing, we deserve death. All of us were created by the same hand, and we all have this same need for His presence in our lives. It does not matter what we have filled this space with in the past, it was meant for God. This is the same with you and I, and the same with those who critique and accuse us. Yes, even family members.

The difference is simply that we know Him, now. There will be people who you come in contact with this holiday season that know of Him, but do not have a clue who, or that, Jesus really is. They settle on learning about Him from afar, very far sometimes.

Some want to learn about running from afar. These few would be perfectly content learning to run from me so they can safely pick apart everything that I say and critique what they like and don’t like about my technique. They would question why I run in the afternoon as opposed to the morning. Then they would give a whole list of excuses why they do not like running or can’t. This is a luxury they have in my presence, but in the presence of a trainer, they would get chewed up and spit out.

And, on Christmas, when we encounter those who want to pick apart our faith we will hear why they can’t make it to church, or how they are agnostic, or that they are “exploring religion”, or they hate Christians because they are hypocrites. Haven’t we been there, too?

Oh, but in the presence of the Father, they would fall down. They would be speechless. Their head would bow. No more excuses. No more arguments. That is the distance that they fight against. Haven’t we been there, too?

You might be the closest thing that they get to Him this season. Are you imperfect? Sure. Should someone be learning how to run this race from you? Well, maybe, you can start it with them. Point them in a way that leads to His throne. Push them in a way that reduces the distance to the Father.

The lessons that I learn from what Jesus said during His life and death are these,

- We don’t have to say a lot. He didn’t.

- We don’t have to defend Him or ourself. He didn't.

- Everything that we say needs to point to Truth.

As a way of pointing to truth, my mentor tells me to quote scripture to certain people in my life. This way I am never relying on myself for words. If I hear gossip, “You say, ‘We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’” (Romans 2:2, NRSV). If you are afraid of sounding preachy, you can paraphrase.

The holidays can be hard. I pray that all of you are preparing wonderful times with loved ones. I also pray that you are pushing those who don’t know Christ in a way that reduces their distance to the Father.

Are you going to face difficult family this holiday season? I would like to pray for you. Leave me a comment and let me know.


  1. Gorgeous!

    I would love for you to pray over my Christmas! My mother in law is, well, we have a history and she has recently moved near us and will be here for Christmas eve dinner. I'm too close to the situation to even suggest a specific prayer. God sees past my wants and knows just what I need, so please pray as you feel led! Thank you so much!

  2. Good stuff. My problem is not my family; it's me and how I react to them, by reverting to teenagerhood. THAT is what I need prayer for! Wish I knew why it's so hard to break out of the box we get stuck in.

    This all reminds me of an article I read yesterday in the Concerned Christians newsletter. Perhaps this is a bit non-sequiterish, but your comments about speaking truth to people triggers this.

    Dr. Andy Poland discusses the difference between letting our love for one another witness to others and letting our words witness to others. I've never thought about the difference before, and to see it from a former Mormon's perspective really made me think. He said that "Jesus did not say that people will know the good news of the gospel through our love, but that through our love they would know that we are the followers of Jesus. Good works show whom we follow, not what we believe: 'By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another'" (Johnm 13:35)
    In contrast, Jesus says "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whosoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whosoever does not believe will condemned." (Mark 16:15) In other words, to believe one must HEAR God's word. Paul says that faith is gained through preaching (Romans 10:14)

    I guess this comes to mind as I ponder your three points...notice two of the three sentences you wrote has the word "say", and the third implies "speaking" (at least in my convoluted mind) not by defense, but of daily life. A life of love (good works) doesn't necessarily call people to God, because, as Dr. Poland pointed out in his case, he was already a very good Mormon who did very good works at least as much/as well as His strong Christian friends. But had the words of life not been SPOKEN to him.....

    Forgive me if this is impossibly long and a complete, random tangent! I just felt like I should share this, even as I have my personal, fearful qualms what others are going to think of this crazy lady....

  3. You are like my first guest writer. Don't worry about seeming crazy. I am pretty sure that it is a requirement here.

    Thank you so much for adding to this post. This gives me even more to think about. I will pray for you this holiday, especially because it is all happening in your house!


Your comments mean so much to me. Thank you for taking the time to share what is on your mind.

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