Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This December, Anna Pinckney Straight is curating a month of reflections on pastoral care in the 21st century. Join the conversation here or on Facebook. Today’s post, by Jan Edmiston, was originally posted on Jan’s blog A Church for Starving Artists.
By Jan Edmiston
Along with many others, I shared this story on FB about a woman whose identity is not known “yet” (because we love both intentional and unintentional celebrities) who paid off approximately $20,000 in over 150 layaway accounts near Bellingham, Massachusetts.
If you don’t know what a layaway account is, it’s what you do when you don’t have enough money to buy something out right. You “lay it away” in a back room of the store and pay it off as you are able.
When one Toys R Us beneficiary received notice that her layaway account had been paid in full, she said, “I feel like I was part of something special – touched by an angel.” This is truly the Spirit of Christmas.
Is it also the Spirit of Christ?
The apostle Paul wrote that “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Ouch.
I want to belong to Christ but I definitely live in the flesh. And I’m venturing a guess here and will suggest that you too – faithful reader – most likely live in the flesh as well.
I just bought myself my own Christmas gift last night. It’s a purse I’ve wanted for a long time and it was half off and it’s no longer being made and I have all kinds of reasons why I really really need this particular bag. Even though this morning’s class was about Spending Less as part of The Advent Conspiracy (and I think they meant spend less on other people) I went and spent more on myself. Clearly the only Advent Conspiracy I’m a part of is a selfish one.
As I write this today, families bear the second anniversary of Sandy Hook and thousands continue to ache over racial injustice. And if we didn’t realize this before, we now know for certain that the United States of America – our beloved nation – tortures people. What can I do besides wear black and share articles on FB and feel self-righteous when the Sunday benediction includes the words “Return no one evil for evil”? Friends, our nation returned evil for evil in our names.
I’m wondering what it means to share the Spirit of Christ and not merely the Spirit of Christmas.
I wonder if the Spirit of Christmas – which by the way is an excellent way to live – is about noticing the material needs of those who have less than we have and the Spirit of Christ is about noticing the spiritual needs of those who are desperate, lost, broken, and furious. Our response to the first is to bring relief via toys, blankets, mittens, and socks. Our response to the second is to bring relief via relationship, freedom, and forgiveness.
It’s harder to offer the Spirit of Christ, if you ask me. And please know that sharing the Spirit of Christ has absolutely nothing to do with bull horns or shaming or violence. It has to do with praying that we would exude the Spirit of Christ in our own lives in terms of the way we treat other people who are not like ourselves.
As HH said in this morning’s sermon, Jesus showed up in places nobody would expect the Messiah to show up: in a manger, on a cross. Where are we showing up in the name of Jesus to share the Spirit of Christ?
Jan Edmiston is a PCUSA pastor and currently serving on the staff of the Chicago Presbytery. She blogs regularly at A Church for Starving Artists. Check it out.