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It is Christmas Eve. So many memories – childhood… to my own children’s childhood – pleasantly flood my mind. This year, we have two college daughters presently home, and late tonight we expectantly await our married daughter and her husband who live in North Carolina. I actually welcome this feeling of preparing the house for their arrival. I desire to not only enjoy the days leading up to Christmas with Skylar and Landrey as we shop and bake, but also the putting of the final touches of Christmas traditions, so that when Braelyn and Ryan come home, they find a home filled with the glory for why we celebrate. As we remember what Christmas means to each one of us, let us not be carried away by going through the motions of holiday traditions, as I have been tempted to do. You know, the way we get caught up in having equal amounts of presents for the children, what is on the menu, on the Television, and on our tree. These are all a unique aspect to our holiday cheer, but let us not allow them to preoccupy our thoughts, time, and tenue. Maybe today you feel unworthy of even turning your thoughts toward God. Maybe you feel numb towards the baby Jesus. Maybe your heart has lied to you and betrayed you by citing that “He, God, won’t listen.” Maybe you have rationalized why your absence from God has been long enough to keep Him away. Maybe you complain about God without seeking Him directly. Or, maybe you believe you have wandered far too long and far that He wouldn’t even want you anymore.

Not so! Are you able to see beyond your self-pity and self-loathing to recognize the purpose – the higher purpose – the eternal purpose – of the baby Jesus in the manger. It is God’s ultimate plan and desire to make a way for those so far removed from Him in their thoughts, words, actions, and in their contemplations to actually be so near Him that they feel His sweet, intimate embrace, hear His comforting voice, and to feel in their very depths of their soul that He, God, loves them. As prophesied in Isaiah 49: 6 hundreds of years before the birth of our Messiah, God’s plan and purpose was to have the lost found. God prophesies over His servant and declares, “Is it too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept? I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Then in the New Testament, just eight days after the birth of Jesus, his parents took baby Jesus to the temple, as according to Jewish custom, to be consecrated to the Lord. When they arrived, the Spirit of God came upon a man by the name of Simeon. He then proclaimed over baby Jesus, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Simeon referenced Isaiah 49:6! Jesus has been born to save! Not just the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. This is us – we are not excluded!! He desires for my salvation, for your salvation. His arms extend wide for you.

Maybe, like the prodigal son, you have been rehearsing things in your mind of what you which you could say to God but haven’t quite mustered the courage to say to Him. The prodigal rehearsed his words of feeling unworthy and inadequate before he came in the presence of his father, who is a representation of our Heavenly Father. He rehearsed his words: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:18-19). I am sure each step homeward he wrestled with whether or not he could really face his dad. Talk about humbling oneself. How long he must have thought of himself so degrading and pitiful to even consider being in the same place as his dad. The lowest of the lows. Who did he think he was going back to his Father’s house? He was covered in shame – not even able to hold his head up. And yet, he did muster the courage to take the steps back home. What he could have never imagined was his treatment when the Father reached him: “But, while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). In fact, you know as the prodigal rehearsed what he would speak to his father, he would anticipate and even presume to know what his father would say in return. He knew what he deserved. What had the father been rehearsing while the son was gone? Maybe the son imagined how mad his father would be. How he has shamed the family. He probably believed the father wants to curse him – his own son. How he wants to treat him like he was never born – that he will only be ignored and not allowed in his father’s presence. Or, maybe he thinks his dad will give him the lecture of a lifetime entitled: “I Told You So!”

None of that happened – not even a tiny smidgen of it. One of my very favorite words the father says to the son is the very first word (which really wasn’t even said to him, but to his servant): “Quick!” The Bible puts the exclamation point at the end! The father didn’t have a rehearsed speech of condemnation. No, immediately he had gifts for his son – even when the son thought he had “spent everything” – the Father had so much more prepared for his heir/son. Before the son could finish his rehearsed speech of shame and guilt, the father lavished him with presents by covering him in grace.

A celebration began in honor of the prodigal son: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

It is time for all of us to be found by God. Praying we will make our way back to our relationship with the One who came to find us and save us.

Merry Christmas

I am not one to spend time on YouTube, surf the Internet, watch videos when they appear on my Facebook feed, nor click on random clips just for fun. BUT, I will have to say that for whatever reason, I did hit “play” on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKejPcknbko

I am glad I did! The look on the homeless man’s face was perfection! I could tell he was uncomfortable at first surrendering his bucket to a stranger, then uncomfortable again when the guitarist sat on the other side of him, then again as the young man shook his hand. Or was it shock? Shocked that someone noticed him. Shocked that someone cared. Shocked that someone wanted to sit next to him and touch him.

The phrase the young man asked the homeless man, “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?”, has not left my mind since I saw that video two months ago.

The homeless man was in a big city on a crowded street. Some people’s reaction to the homeless man could have been: “Get off the sidewalk- go to a shelter or something!” or “You stink! Move away!” or “Get a job!” or “You’re just a beggar, no one cares about you!”.

And yet, this young Christian man sat down next to him and asked the homeless man if he could borrow his bucket. The young, Christian man gave him an invitation. Hesitantly, the homeless man accepted. “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?” was the invitation.

His bucket. Reminds me of a current trend: having a “bucket list”. I have always been anti-bucket list. Never could sit down and write a list of things “I want to do” or “I want to have” or “I want to meet” or “I want to go”. Too many “I’s” for me. Something I have learned in this 40 + years on this Earth is that God can and will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).

Back to the bucket in the video clip. The homeless man was asked to give up temporarily one of his only possessions. It held his sleeping mat. Maybe on good days, it held lots of coins. His bucket represented his homelessness. The bucket represented something shameful; he had no where to call home. He had no where to lay his head at night. He had no where to invite strangers over.

The bucket is symbolic for anything in anyone’s life that reflects emptiness, neediness, loneliness, hopelessness, and shamefulness.

The one object that symbolized the homeless man’s lack, his need, his inability to even care for himself, was the one object that the Christian asked to borrow. The Christian invited himself to borrow the one item that symbolized the man’s hopelessness. It was an invitation the homeless man could have refused for the sake of pride or fear. But, he didn’t. He humbly gave to the Christian his empty bucket.

Do you or I need to give someone or Someone, namely Jesus Christ, our pride, our fear? Do we need to hand over our empty wallet, empty home, empty talent, empty marriage, empty dream, empty stomach, empty soul, or empty heart?

The Christian, young man in the video literally turned the homeless man’s bucket upside down! He turned it upside down and made beautiful music with it! The bucket was revolutionized. The bucket was revived. The bucket was profitable. The bucket was filled. The bucket in another man’s hands became a miracle story.

What once was a symbol of shame could be turned into a symbol of grace.

Instead of being the generation of “My bucket list” takers, let’s be the generation of “Borrow your bucket” fillers.

What can you and I do to fill someone’s bucket? What can we do to turn someone’s life upside down? What can we do to share the hope of Jesus Christ? What can we do to invite someone in their worst to show them we care and so does Jesus? What can we do to find someone who feels shameful and offer grace?

It is by invitation. If the person refuses your help, move on. Just as Jesus invites us to accept Him as Lord and Savior, we either receive or refuse. He doesn’t force Himself on us.

“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55: 1-3).

If/When God leads you to bless someone by filling his/her bucket, please feel free to share it in the comment section of this blog!

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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