by Rev. Monique McBride, FUMC Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First, read Galatians 5:14
Remember the game Pick Up Sticks? It has been a long time since I’ve seen this toy in the toy store. It was a simple game and, in my opinion, a lot better than some of the toys in this year’s Christmas catalogs. If you’re not familiar, Pick Up Sticks was a cardboard tube with a plastic cap. Inside were colorful plastic sticks about the size of a pencil. To play, one would dump the tube of sticks on the floor and take turns removing a stick from the pile without moving any of the other sticks. The longer you played, the more difficult it became to move a stick without moving any of the other sticks around it. It didn’t require an outlet and it provided my friends and I lots of fun.
Pick Up Sticks reminds me of the job and the heart of a Christian. Both here in Galatians and in Matthew 22:36, it says the most important thing we are to do as Christians is to love God and love our neighbors. Like Pick Up Sticks, we’re all connected. Or, as the saying goes, “You can’t be a Christian alone.” The more we grow in our love of God, the more we also grow in our love for the world. When we read scriptures, talk to God in prayer, give God glory in worship and grow in grace, we soon come to see the world as God sees it and love and hope for something better for all God’s children. Practically speaking, it is that heart which develops in us and calls us to feed the hungry, to work for justice and to care for the sick.
As Methodists, we believe in what John Wesley called “prevenient grace.” Prevenient grace is the unmerited love of God for all people through Jesus. It’s the love that goes before us in all things and woos us toward God and God’s love. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, calling us to worship, to study scripture and to serve those in need. Our belief in this gift of love and grace not only helps us grow in our understanding of God, it also changes our view of ALL people as beloved children of God. If God loves all people and we love God, we must also love all people. (Yes, even the ones not like us.) Like the sticks of our game, no matter the color, we’re all connected through God’s love.
The season of Advent is a perfect time to put such love into practice. After all, Advent is all about preparing our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. What better way to prepare for such a celebration than to share God’s love with the least and the lost? At this time of year, society abounds with ways to extend love and mercy to those in need. In what ways are you being called to reach out and serve your neighbors?
God of the least and the lost, help us to be mindful of our calling to love and serve our neighbors in thought, word and deed. Amen.
Have you ever noticed your own cares melt away when you put the needs of others above your own? When we serve others in need, suddenly all our worries, stressors and silly desires magically snap back into perspective and we can see all the blessings around us. Suddenly that new toy or bit of gossip doesn’t seem that important anymore.
In today’s scripture, we’re reminded of Jesus’ words to serve others. Serving others, says Galatians 5:14, is just as important as loving God. That is pretty important.
At Christmastime, there are all sorts of ways to serve those in need. Churches, homeless shelters and other charities advertise various ways to serve those who are hungry, sick or sad. Find a service project that is meaningful for your family and either do or plan to do something together to serve those in need. It doesn’t have to be big or grand. The important part is remembering to serve others as part of our faith journey.
How can you serve God with your time, talents and treasures all year round?