John Stumbo Video Blog No. 5
December 12, 2013
U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo invites pastors and workers to “receive what God is bringing to us, to the point where it’s something we treasure—hold as holy, to be reflected on.”
Hey, team! John Stumbo here for video blog number five. I’m actually taping this in Spain. A year ago I was invited to be the speaker for a rare event in The Christian and Missionary Alliance. The kindness of donors allowed us to bring together the international workers from all over Africa for a conference with worship, preaching, seminars, training, prayer, fellowship. It was a very rich time. I was thrilled to be there; God met us in many ways. I was so impressed with our team of international workers.
But while there, I taped this blog. Thank you for listening. May God use it to encourage you today.
Hey, team, I’m very aware that I’m coming to you in December, which for many of us as pastors is the busiest time of the year. I know it was for me during my years in the pastorate. So don’t take for granted the fact that you’re taking some time to listen again this month.
I don’t know about you, but during my pastoral years, in December, during Advent, I tended to get on the “bigger and better” train, where every year I felt like I wanted to be more creative and have more music or more lights or more program or more people or more something, and by the time that Christmas Eve came around, I was pretty tired. I was eager to be done with the whole Christmas celebration so I could just go home and spend time with my family and enjoy the Christmas and holiday season at home with them.
But through the years, the Christmas Eve service became a real highlight for me. I began to appreciate the fact that there were fewer expectations on the sermon, and I loved the carols and the fact that families would all come together, dressed up, and actually get there early. What other service of the year do families actually come early for, you know?
And then the candles. Call me a bit of a sentimentalist, but I loved the fact that we’d turn the lights off and everybody would have a candle and we’d start with a single light up front, and then I would have the honor of going row by row, and light the candle of the person at the end of the row, and there was something holy to me about seeing the light of a candle flicker in the eyes of a wonder-filled child. Or to go to the next row and light the candles of a family that I had walked with them that year through a crisis. Down we went, row by row, and soon the whole room was filled with the light of those candles, and we would sing the classic song “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
And it seems that in those moments for a number of years, I finally received the joy, the hope, the love, the peace that Christ alone, Christ Himself, offers us. I finally slowed down, got quiet enough in that moment to actually receive something of Christmas for myself.
Pastor, I’m quite sure that during this holiday season you’ ll do plenty of giving. In fact, you’ve been doing that all year. My question for us tonight is, how are you doing on the receiving end? Are you able to be a recipient, not just a giver? In general terms, I don’t think we as pastors are good receivers. We got into the helping profession, and we’re accustomed to doing things for people, not having them do things for us. And a certain measure of that, I suppose, is unavoidable. But I want to be an advocate for being able to be a recipient, for being the kind of person who isn’t only able to give but is able to receive.
This whole thought started when I was reading Second Corinthians: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God.
For years I read that passage and emphasized all the things that I do for others, and the fact of who God is, that He is a God of comfort. But I missed the one word—“receive”: “That we would comfort with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God.”
What kind of recipient have I been? What does it take to be a good recipient? Well, let me suggest two things. It takes humility to receive. For the purpose of this little talk, I define humility as the joyful acceptance that I’m not “omni-competent,” the joyful acceptance that I’m not all competent, that I actually need help. And to be happy and grateful about that? That would be an evidence of humility and a step toward receptivity. Another aspect of being able to receive would be . . . can I just simply use the word “engagement”? To lean in. To rather than be the passive observer, to be a full participant in every moment. And to be a full participant in some of our minds has been, “Yes, I’m on the giving, and I’m fully participating in this. I’m blessing people; I’m praying for people; I’m helping people.” Well, to be a full participant would also be to be able to receive what it is that someone else is trying to grant to us.
So what if this Christmas you actually received that look of admiration from a child? You let it sink somewhere into your soul. What if you actually received that silent hug from the guest that had that tear in their eye? What if you actually received, gratefully, that fruitcake—you don’t even like fruitcake—but you received that for what it was intended to be, a gesture of love from that senior saint.
Again, I’m afraid that sometimes we are so accustomed to giving we’re missing out on the reception side.
You know the story. How a young couple’s engagement was drastically upended by an unexpected pregnancy. And their simple, small-town life was shattered by not only that news, but then the news that they had to go to the city for this taxation. You know of the endless, bedless night, as the child is born, and then the surprise arrival of these rowdy shepherds that have claimed they’ve just seen angels. Looks nice in a Christmas card, but I’m not sure how that feels when you’ve just given birth a few hours earlier.
While the shepherds are amazed and the town’s abuzz with the news of what’s taken place, the Scripture says something interesting: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Somehow at this moment, Mary was able to receive. Receive this joyful message from the shepherds, receive the concept that angels had come. And not only receive it, but receive it to the point where it was something that she treasured; treasured so that it was stored up in a manner she could ponder it later.
I know that we will give this Christmas. I’m asking if we will receive what God is bringing to us, to the point where it’s something we treasure—hold as holy, to be reflected on.
“He came to that which was his own, and his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to them who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.”
We have joyfully received the Christ into our lives as an act of response to His salvation offer. May we continue to be those who receive. Now what He is saying to us through His body, through His people, through the very services we lead—may we be recipients of the grace, the comfort, the compassion that is offered to us. God bless you, and merry Christmas.