By Tom Henry | as published in the December 23, 2017 edition of the Blytheville Courier News
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
We are meant to live blessed, happy, fruitful lives here in Blytheville, and I know without a doubt, if you and I and those around us learn the lessons of Christmas, we all will.
The true lesson of Christmas has nothing to do with the mad rush of shopping and the older I get the more disgusted I become with the commercialization of Christmas. But at the same time, the true lessons I learn of Christmas become deeper and much more meaningful for me with each passing year. Also, the wonderful thing about the lessons that Christmas teaches us, is that they are not just “churchy” (though that would be enough) and they are not just for individuals, but they apply to our entire lives and are also meant for groups like companies, cities and counties.
Without a doubt the primary lesson that Christmas teaches us is that of love. Love is not something that can be bought by just throwing money at someone. Love is patient and kind; it does not lift oneself up while allowing anyone else to be torn down. It is not self-serving and it only exists in truth. Love never fails. A life of love is the greatest life a person can live and an act of love is the greatest thing a person can do. We as a community need to do a better job of loving our neighbors (and families) and making decisions, as a community, that lifts everyone up, not just a self-serving few.
Christmas teaches us to hope for a better day and that there is deliverance out of whatever curse or prison we may be experiencing at the time. To be absent of hope is to be in the very real presence of death. Hope is not mindless, reckless, pie-in-the-sky daydreaming or a wish list of things that we just expect to fall out of the sky and at our feet. Hope is the earnest expectation that good will come out of everything we go through and that our best days are ahead of us. Hope knows that all storms and trials (high crime, poverty and deadly unemployment) is just a temporary condition – never permanent. And hope is lost when there is no vision for how things can/will be in the end.
Another awesome lesson of Christmas is the promise of redemption. Christmas teaches us that no matter where we are today, no matter what mistakes we have made, there is a way out and we do not have to have a life that is defined by our current or past mistakes. The past is the past and the future is the future. Life can be turned around. Even gang members and drug addicts can be plucked from their torture and set free into a glorious, happy, productive, law abiding life…and it happens every day right here in Blytheville.
Another huge lesson is that of relationship. The gospel of Christmas is all about God wanting to renew relationship with man. We personally know that Christmas is all about relationship because no matter how many terrific, expensive presents we get, we are not fulfilled or experience joy at Christmastime unless we have made meaningful connections with our relations.
Another lesson of Christmas is that the wise men, the kings and the lowly shepherds are all equal. Ultimately all must bow and all are the same on the inside. Likewise, in our community, all are born equal and all have equal value before God. Merit and favor sometimes tip the balance, but the good ol’ boy system and government special interests should never be able to.
Giving is the last lesson I pray our community learns from Christmas. Blytheville has some of the most amazing, giving, charitable hearts on the planet. That is no joke and that is no lie! I have been amazed to see the giving capacity of some of our city’s leading citizens (known and unknown). But if the majority of our community can learn to give to those around us, whether it is financial, mentorship, time and talents, kindness or whatever…then our city will turn around almost overnight.
God will “get it to” those that He can “get it through.” That is what He means when He says that He will bless you, so that you can be a blessing.
So, ultimately, if our city…that means you and I and all those around us, learn and live all of the above lessons that Christmas teaches, we will certainly be blessed beyond our comprehension and everyone will ask, “What is going on in Blytheville?” I want to move there because that community is so blessed. They have peace, love, opportunity, kindness, prosperity and community.
THAT is how we make Blytheville into what we want it to be. Otherwise, if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll only get more of the same ol’ failed results that we have gotten before.