Friday, November 30, 2007

A Gift of the Season

Our Advent Devotional Theme for 2007 here at Southwest Baptist is "Christmas Wishes." This is my response when asked to share about a special Christmas gift.

I was recently a part of a conversation which centered on vocational challenges and choices. We discussed the different roles each of our occupations required and the conversation eventually moved toward a very interesting question: If each of us were not doing what we were now doing, in what vocation would we be?

Those who have known me for years know I first experienced God’s call on my life, pulling me toward vocational ministry, when I was in high school. During my years in college and then in seminary I encountered several classmates who were certain I had missed my calling – though I think most of them were saying so in jest. These classmates were certain I would make a great lawyer. However, even if I was not convinced of God’s call on my life, I could not be a lawyer.

Please do not misunderstand me: All of the obvious jokes aside, I have great respect for many lawyers. Those in the legal profession often champion the rights of victims or protect the innocent from false accusation. I also believe our legal system, while perhaps not perfect, is absolutely essential in our society. Lawyers are required for our legal system to function properly.

However, most often lawyers experience people at their worst. Divorce law, tax law, corporate law, criminal law, and even in constitutional law – lust, greed, pride, envy, and strife are often all on display. Only in rare moments do lawyers have the privilege of seeing someone at his or her best. While I suppose all careers, vocations, and occupations provide opportunities to encounter people at less than their best, lawyers seem to absorb a disproportionate amount of the worst. I do not think my heart could take it.

In ministry, I certainly have not always been presented with the best humanity has to offer. At our worst, each of us has the potential for great evil. At our most desperate we often fail to choose the best way. However, I also have been given a great gift. It is truly one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to me. I may sometimes encounter life and those who live it at their worst, but I also get to see, experience, encourage, and celebrate life at its very best.

At this time of year more than most, I get to see people reaching out to each other, giving a hand, meeting needs, providing care – and so much of it goes unnoticed by the rest of the world. I am blessed to see persons, without expecting or receiving any thanks, pour out their lives to the benefit of others. God has given me this gift, and it is one I treasure. As children, we longed for the experience of receiving gifts on Christmas morning. As adults, we learned that true joy comes in the giving rather than in the receiving. As a minister, I have learned that joy also comes in watching the love of God being expressed through fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is a gift I will treasure forever.

Grace, peace, and joy,
James

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