For a number of years, I have tried to write a sonnet or poem for Christmas. Why a sonnet? I like the discipline of fitting the 14 lines, one I make even more challenging by using a 14-letter acrostic for each line. It doesn’t seem to be my nature to say something simple, so it takes time to decide what to say. This year Christmas was past, although I object to celebrating Christmas by the merchants’ calendar (I wish the Church could return to something like the 12 days of Christmas, starting on Christmas day and continuing for a time after). This year I found myself thinking both of the incarnation and New Years Day together. On the one hand, why did Jesus come? On the other, what should it mean for me, for us, as we begin a new year? The following is what developed from those questions.
A Sonnet of Grace-filled Love
God’s eternal word took on the shape of mortal flesh;
Realms of heaven left behind, he roomed among the sheep.
And yet this child of humble form revealed God’s love afresh,
Child of Mary, virgin born, in mystery so deep.
Even in his modest guise, God’s glory did remain;
In him was holy grace revealed, providential good.
No hint of evil nor deceit, truth was his very name;
Came God’s one begotten son, in sinners’ place he stood.
A sacrificial lamb, this babe–perfect, spotless, clean–
Rejected Satan’s substitute and shed his blood in love;
Now all needy human hearts, tho’ hopeless and unclean,
Are gifted, through a simple prayer, forgiveness from above.
The glorious grace and truth that came in him on Christmas Day
Enables those who come, to live his gracious, truthful way.
A Sonnet to Love’s Purpose
Many folk have lost their way in culture’s slow decline;
Our sense of value, purpose, goals, and usefulness dismissed.
Supplanting these are selfishness, a narcissistic mien;
To feel and not to think, indeed, for pleasure they insist.
What is the point of modern life? Its good is often claimed.
Of progress and technology, it boasts material ease;
Regarding not the heart’s malaise or how some souls are maimed,
Too blind to see the hopelessness, most miss the truth that frees.
Happy is the one who seeks and seeking comes to find.
Yet finding God is just the start; new life in faith begun;
Given gifts, each person has a purpose He designed,
Opportunity to thrive, create, and see good done.
Ask not for blessing! He has blessed and made you to achieve.
Let him reveal your heart’s desire; abundance you’ll receive.
Why did Jesus come? Oh, so many talks and sermons focus on the baby! Indeed there were many miracles, but they were not the end but a means to an end. He came to die for sinners on a Roman cross, right? Does that mean it’s all about sin and forgiveness? I don’t think so; I believe forgiveness is only the beginning. The goal is to fulfill the idea of “Christian” or “little Christ,” that it, to grow in grace, truth, and forgiveness. I fear we neglect grace in favor of rigid truth while we often ignore forgiveness. We exchange a relationship with God as the basis for relationships with our brothers and sisters for sterile religion. Instead of confronting and replacing fallen human culture, we fall prey to its false promise of happiness.
The blessings of gifted human uniqueness and the fulfillment of creative labor offered in service and worship have no substitute; their absence, I believe, is the source of aimlessness and hopelessness. I regard restoring the “Whole Gospel” as the key to success of the Church’s mission for this day. Too often we stop with an emphasis on doing good and not doing bad, with forgiveness to clean up our mistakes. As important and amazing as this is, it is not enough. In fact, God’s gift of forgiveness based solely on Jesus’ sacrifice is like erasing the slate of our lives so that we may begin to write on it that unique message each of us is gifted to write.
I recall thinking that heaven was a place where saints sat on clouds playing harps; it didn’t seem very exciting. As important as worship is in our relationship with our Lord, I don’t think heaven is a continual church service (especially not one like many of ours which, frankly, can be sooo boring!). We have work to do, satisfying, personally appealing, creative labors to perform, and in doing this, we truly worship. We also find worth, meaning, and purpose which is largely missing in today’s culture.
As a teacher and tutor, I want my students to discover who they are and what they are gifted to do. As those who are to share the good news, we must learn to share this truth with people, who think that pleasure in the moment is what life is about, and find emptiness. Their hearts ask, “Is that all there is?” They don’t want to hear, “Hey, join our crowd. Have fun with us at church. Let us show you how to be a good person.”
I’ve been blessed to know a few believers who serve God through their gifts, and it’s plain that righteousness is not the end but their unique labors are. In a way, it is harder for us in ministry, and some stumble for not having found their own giftedness. Over the years, I’ve seen myself as prophet, peacemaker, and tutor, and the latter has become the dominant of the three, with some interesting confirmations, just this past year. cannot overstate the blessing in coming to know exactly who I am and what I am here to do, something that seems to grow stronger as I grow older and, perhaps, as I learn to appreciate its importance.
In case this still seems unclear, I am convinced that mere salvation for the purpose of achieving righteousness and heaven is not the end of God’s purpose for us, here on earth, but the beginning. His purpose for each of us is to fulfill our uniquely created, individually gifted potential, to use what he has given us to serve, enrich others, and glorify God. A person may not be a Bach, who clearly demonstrated this; but the same may be achieved through plumbing, cooking, nursing, being an outstanding neighbor, planning social events, prayer for others, writing songs, singing, drawing cartoons, writing, and an endless list of other possibilities. I can only imagine the church where each person aggressively seeks to fulfill his or her individual purpose, but I know it is not the typical conformity we have come to see in most congregations today.