(November 26, 2021) Robert and Maureen McQuillan, as with other contributors this month, again encourage blessing others…
As many know, we relax watching good movies, particularly film noir, and wholesome TV shows. Recently, although it’s only November, we kept finding great Christmas-centred YouTube ones highlighting the Christmastime season as one of generosity and giving.
Next month, of course, brings around that time of year when we celebrate the coming to earth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, born of the young virgin Mary, fulfilling Isaiah 9:6.
Celebrating Christ’s incarnation
Sadly, to many it’ll just be a holiday season but to those who know the gift of our gracious, loving God, we’ll celebrate it remembering we owe him so much for the miraculous incarnation of his Son who would willingly sacrifice himself on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty of our sins (John 3:16).
And, of course, we owe much to the Holy Spirit who, as Romans 8:11 declares, ensured that Jesus rose from the grave (‘With healing in his wings’ to quote from that Wesley/Whitefield hymn that became the carol Hark the Angels Sing), as well as birthing the church (Acts 2).
Looking ahead, most Christians will be making Christmastime special, getting together with family, enjoying fellowship and good food, gift-giving, relaxing and happiness-finding and making. But… unfortunately some will miss out next month because they’ve heard myths generated around what we call the Christmas story and been disillusioned!
Robert has written about this in his Questions category Christmastime Myths, adding: Let’s not be confused and hindered in our faith! May we at Christmastime celebrate God’s greatest gift of the Messiah, the Saviour, not quibble foolishly! After all, the main thing – the major thing – is that Jesus willing came to earth to win souls and make all who accept him as Saviour and Lord become children of God! Hallelujah!
Grateful to God, this Christmastime spirit of generosity and giving should be an every day spirit.
God and our willingness
God’s word in Isaiah 58:7Message comes to mind – ‘What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.’
As does the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) with verse thirty-seven’s closing challenge to the expert in the law, ’religious scholar’(Message) ‘Go and do the same.’ And Matthew 19:19, 22:31, Romans 13:9-10, Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8… all about loving your neighbour as yourself.
Love here is agapaō, what Christians so often think of as God’s unique love for us. As ‘neighbour’ is plēsion meaning ‘anyone closeby’ it would seem that we’re meant to love as God does… being active in love and helpfulness and not requiring anything in return!
As this article is about reaching out to bless even strangers, humour us here for a moment when we refer to yet another Christmas myth, perhaps one you’ve never heard about, but with a genuine link to our topic.
Suppose there were not just ‘three’ wise men, but four magi. Four magi? Just supposing, of course.
Now we could mention Artaban, played by Martin Sheen in the movie, The Fourth Wise Man, or the1895 short story The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke.
Instead let’s refer to one of those YouTube Christmastime features mentioned above… that Signed Sealed and Delivered series (by Martha Williamson, creator of the popular Touched by an Angel) about four dedicated Denver DLO (Dead Letter Office) postal detectives committed to their mission of tracking down intended recipients of undeliverable mail.
Team leader, staid Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), quoter of Shakespeare, other notables and scripture, is a churchgoing believer. Christian principles are often highlighted… such as forgiving, miracles, the impossible being possible, doing the right thing, being thoughtful, giving and generousity whatever it costs.
(One is reminded of Micah 6:8Mge here… ‘But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.’)
Letter to God
In the For Christmas episode, a little girl sends a Christmas wish not to Santa, but to God, asking that her very ill pregant mother be all right, and also the baby inside her. Our Postables, especially Oliver, wonder how they can ‘deliver’ a response to this selfless DLO letter. As he contemplates this challenge, Oliver becomes involved with another urgent matter…
Jordan, a mysterious volunteer postal worker, has a sealed reply letter to yet another ‘letter to God’ and specifically charges Oliver with the responsibility to deliver.
Oliver hesitantly agrees. But as he endeavours to fulfill this mission, his day and postal journey is continually interrupted by incidents where he becomes involved in helping several individuals enroute.
It eventually becomes too late to reach the intended address and on the way back to the DLO, he learns that the little girl and her very sick mother now both need miracles to bring them through the night.
Somewhat desponded he visits the local hospital chapel to pray for them. Unexpectedly, Jordan comes in and sits near him.
As we recall this script it then goes along these lines…
When Oliver explains why he never got round to delivering the urgent letter, Jordan points out that his time had been well spent in helping so many people and he shouldn’t be so hard on himself.
Out-of-the-blue, he asks the desponded Oliver, ‘Did you ever hear the legend of the fourth wise man?’
‘No,’ says Oliver, surprised, his mind still on not delivering that letter, the little girl’s letter to God, needed miracles… and incidents that have caused him to feel lonely.
Jordan shares: ‘This fourth magi was way behind through constantly stopping to help a lot of travellers on the road to Bethlehem. When he finally got there, Joseph had taken Mary and Jesus to Egypt, fleeing from King Herod. So he headed for Egypt to search for the newborn baby but again he’s delayed as he keeps coming cross people he can help. And this happened again and again and the years went by.’
‘Did he ever find Jesus?’ asks the intrigued Oliver.
‘Oh, he travelled to many places seeking Jesus but continually helping needy folk hindered him again and again. But, yes, he finally did’ responds Jordan, and then astounds Oliver by adding ‘in Jerusalem… on a cross.’
Always one step behind this magi finally found Jesus at the cross and realises that he had already met him in the faces of all the people he had helped along the way (See Matthew 25:40 below). He had found not a baby, but his king!
Jordan also reminds tells Oliver a powerful truth: ‘You might feel alone, but you know you’re not, you never are. No matter what you’ve lost, Christmas is an opportunity to remember that love came down to find you right here where you are, with or without a perfect delivery record. And it happens year after year, in a hospital lobby, or post office, in the woods, or on a mountain top, or at the beach. Christmas is a gift. It’s your choice to accept it.’
Helping others can mean sacrifice
So what if being a blessing to others costs time, some travelling, even finance and gift-giving. In the movie mentioned above, in his 33-year journey Artaban has used up all the gifts he brought for Jesus to help people in dire need. He now has nothing to present to his king but himself… as he is.
Christians have already met this king at Calvary’s cross when we repented and accepted Jesus as Saviour. And no doubt we’ve had many of his Holy Spirit opportunities since then (at least we hope you have!).
One day Jesus will come to meet with us and what a day that’ll be! Now, despite what so-called prophets may predict, no one knows when that day will be, Jesus told us (Matthew 25:36). So wouldn’t it be good if we spend our days on earth being like that legendary ‘fourth magi’ meeting needs on every opportunity the Holy Spirit arranges, making every day a Christmastime day!
Generosity, giving, encouraging and blessing others. Reminds us of what Jesus promised in Matthew 5:7Message: ‘You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘careful,’ you find yourselves cared for.’ Good News Bible reads: ‘Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!’
‘Merciful’ and ‘care’ in the Greek is eleēmōn… compassionate, a major characteristic of Jesus, In our giving, generosity, encouraging and blessings others, let’s be compassionate!
Martha Williamson has said that ‘A letter can restore a relationship or change the world. Half of the New Testament is made up of letters, mostly from Paul, but also from Peter, James, John and Jude. Letters are forever.’
In closing we quote from ‘a gospel letter’ that tells so much about the king and his kingdom: ‘And the king will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:40).
Oh… incidentally, that little girl got her miracle and her letter to God answered. (And Oliver finally reached that other person)! Good news Christmastime stories.
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Links: Carol Round’s An Invitation From Jesus / Mama Lava’s If Today is the Last Day of Your Life What are you Going to do / Geri B’s Cancel, Condemn or Cherish / Maureen McQuillan’s A Night to Remember / Robert McQuillan’s Willingly Serving Others Whatever the Cost