Friday, December 21, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Since we last checked in we have celebrated Thanksgiving and are close on the heals of Christmas time. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has many holidays to celebrate, partly due to adding the U.S. holidays to their own traditions. Christmas traditions here are noteworthy and different. They will be fully celebrating Christmas at least until January 6th, “Three Kings Day”. Thus, the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. The celebration of the “Three Kings” rivals December 25th and children, we’re told, put hay under their beds for the King’s camels and receive gifts in exchange. Some towns have dressed “kings” riding through neighborhoods early in the morning and distributing gifts in the plazas.

You’ll also see among our pictures a manger scene and light displays with “Mayaguex, Cuidad de Dios” (Mayaguez, City of God). These are on and in CITY HALL. Coming from the states where “separation of church and state” has become an excuse for boycotting Christian expression, we are pretty amazed by this. Cabo Rojo, where we live, has a lit sign that says “Cabo Rojo, where Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords…” in Spanish along a main highway. As we evangelize, we know many are not in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the premise that He is God or the Word of God is the Bible is rarely debated, the great need is a personal understanding of what a relationship with the Lord is, sound Biblical teaching on the character and nature of God. Julian was able to attend the “Gulf Coast Conference” in Florida and spend an encouraging time with Pastor Schaller from our Baltimore church, Pastor Moses Baldwin and Pastor Dan Foster, both of them went before us to the field of Puerto Rico. One member of our fellowship here in Western Puerto Rico, Cholo, was able to go with Julian (Pastor Moses did translation for him into Spanish). We also had two very encouraging visits from our church in Baltimore first from Brent Hillenga and then from Kim and P. Ed Murphy this month. Brent Hillenga traveled with Julian and Cholo back from Florida to PR. Julian and Brent were busy connecting with university students who are “white and ready to harvest”. They scheduled a “forum” meeting on campus starting in January when classes resume. Brent refreshed us and built us up. Although he was not here for a Sunday, we met with some of our fellowship on a Thursday where he shared and fellowshipped around the Word.
Kim and Ed Murphy arrived a few days after Brent left for Baltimore. We had a joy-filled time with them. The kids especially enjoyed their company; the children shared many stories from being on the island. Of course, we showed them around. They even got caught up in some landscaping projects with Julian, and we had some real divine appointments.

As we close out the year we would like to say thanks to all of you for your support, prayers and encouragement. It has definitely been a season of change moving to the Puerto Rico mission field; your companionship has been invaluable. From Puerto Rico we would also like to thank Pastor Miguel Soto (President of the Southern Baptist conference), his wife Carmen for allowing us to stay at their rental house in Aguadilla.

Even from Everlasting to Everlasting Thou Art God…

Psalms 90:2b

Our joy, praise and assurance come from the One who is the Alpha and the Omega—the Eternal One who became our Savior; from One who reigned on high, beholding all things, who came and dwelled among men; to One who now reigns as King forever.

There are two parts of the great house that have been prepared for us. In our generation we have the wonderful opportunity of connecting the two. Jesus’ humility and condescension are seen in His stable birth and His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to the Throne: powerful pictures well laid by the Church of old with lingering pictures of manger scenes and an empty tomb.

If the humility of Christ is the poured foundation, and His death, resurrection, ascension and kingship are the dome of this great building; we are left with the opportunity of seeing and experiencing His laying the rest of that building together. From birth to His present reign, we have a total Christ. If His humility is the feet of His incarnation made for the dusty and sin-soiled world He would walk in, and His head is for a true crown in His kingdom, where are His hands, His heart, His eyes, His ears, His mouth?

The skillful, art-filled and beautiful work of presenting a total Christ is our privilege. It is through the personal work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that we are able to connect the feet of Christ to His head. Apart from our availability, the Christ of the stable and the absent Savior of the tomb are speechless and silent.

There is a principle that we miss in presenting the incarnation/humble passage of Christ into the world and His passion, death—resurrection, His physical exit from the world:—only a few were there to be witnesses of these insightful events. They are the greatest historical events we have to retell and portray to a hurting, hedonistic, narcissistic world, yet our most fantastic evangelical responses will not come from the mass publication of these events but rather from personal confrontations with men and women, boys and girls everywhere. Jesus’ impact was always from personal rendezvous or from the pre-salvation work of others.

The broken heart, the speaking Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God is pictured best in His announcement by the angels, by John the Baptist, then by God, Himself; Him to the Samarian woman at the well; to Saul of Tarsus on his way to murdering more Christians; to the disciples on the road to Emmaus; to Nicodemus. Each one was of the God who says, “Come let us reason together (Is. 1:18 )”. No silence there. In one of these people, you and I can see ourselves historically.

For all of us, if Christ is to be seen, to be heard; it is because we lift Him high. Let us touch the hem of His garments again to (re) commit that our ambassadorship will be an active one, not in mass, holiday-strapped advertisements; a soft, salvation-by-default Christianity, but personal. It will be from our lips others will hear, this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased, hear Him (Matt. 3:17), and “…come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”(Jn. 4:29). Let us endeavor to take the static feet and head of religion and give the mind and heart, ears, eyes and words of a living Christ to others today, personally.

While we ponder deeply the passages of Christ for the work of our redemption; let us testify openly that the One who is from everlasting to everlasting, the One who said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58); the One who said, “let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness”(Gen. 1:26); who was in the beginning with God and is God, is the Man, Christ and He reigns forever… Revelations 11:15.

From the Matthew family…Merry Christmas and a Christ-filled New Year!