dec. 8 - less

by Rev. Brett Opalinski, Christ UMC Ft. Lauderdale, FL

First, read John 3:30

In my family we try to eat breakfast together before school. I have a seventeen year old and eleven year old. Life is full now with school, church, and athletics, so breakfast is our shared meal when we make a special effort to be together around the table. Every morning we pray the Wesley Covenant Prayer:

Lord, I am no longer my own, but yours, put me to do what you will. Associate me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing ... I freely and joyfully yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.”

These are easy words to pray, but much harder to live! I like the parts about “doing,” “being employed,” “exalted,” “full,” and having “all things.” It is the other half of the prayer that always gets me, though:  “suffering,” “laid aside,” “brought low,” “empty,” “nothing.” These are the hard parts.

Let’s be honest, sometimes we worship Jesus so that he will bless and honor what we like or want. We think that being a faithful Christian means that we will be wealthy, popular, or at least that our team will win the game on Saturday or Sunday. We think it will bring us the perfect job, house, church or school. Yet, Jesus promises none of these things; only radical love and joyful, peace-filled hearts.

Growing up in faith means making it less about me or us and more about Jesus! This is hard. It means that there is something greater than my wants, desires, and expectations. It means that things may not always go as I prefer, but that doesn't mean God isn't working. It means when that song or that message doesn't speak to me in worship, I give thanks that perhaps God is using it to connect with someone else, rather than complain or say, “I’m not being fed.” It means I don’t have to be the center of attention and sometimes I am called to follow, rather than lead. Sometimes I am even called to stand aside so someone else can serve. 

If this sounds crazy, simply remember this Advent season that God chose the way of less. When God came in Jesus, he chose to leave the glory of His Kingdom. He chose not to be elite or powerful, but a child born into a simple family in a small and hidden part of the world. God chose a way of suffering and rejection. God chose the way of less so that we could become more. May God’s heart be our heart!

God, may we become less so that you can become more! Amen.

Whether it is the commercials in between the family Christmas specials, the multitude of red and green holiday treats or the mega toy catalogs which come in the mail, it seems the last thing on the minds of our kids at this time of year is having, doing or wanting “less.” Yet, our scripture for today reminds us of the gift of making do with less. 

As John says, when we find ways to decrease, we make room for God to increase in our lives. Having, being and wanting less can be a hard sell for kids in the midst of the temptation of Christmastime. There always seems to be just one more thing to add to their Christmas lists. Yet, all we have to do is give our kids a cardboard box to realize that they really don’t need all of life’s bells and whistles to have a nice time. When we make do with less, we enlist our creativity and imaginations. When we give our extras and excess to others, we find the joy of sharing and giving out of our own abundance.

Find a way to make do with less today for you and your kids. Eat a simple meal and donate what you might have spent on dinner or dessert to those in need. Or, help your kids find a few nice toys or items of clothing they don’t use and donate them. You might even encourage them to take an item or two off of their Christmas lists.

How does this exercise in wanting and making do with less change their thoughts about the Christmas season or their ever-growing Christmas list? Take some time to pray together for hearts that are happy and content with less.