Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Spell it out


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1, NRSV)

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

President Abraham Lincoln is given credit for telling the charming story of a little girl who received some wooden alphabet blocks for Christmas. She liked them so much that she took them to bed with her on Christmas night and played with them until she was very sleepy. Then she remembered she hadn’t said her evening prayers.

Barely awake, she knelt beside her bed and prayed, "Oh, Lord, I’m much too sleepy to pray, but here are the letters. Could you please spell it out for yourself?"

The little girl’s dilemma may bring a smile to your face, but underneath the appeal of this story lies a great truth. On that first Christmas night, this is just what God did by giving us Jesus!

In a way everyone could understand, God’s great love was spelled out for us, punctuated by angels and shepherds and wise men alike proclaiming, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and, on earth, peace among those whom God favors!" (Luke 2:14)

It was news that changed humankind. The world has never been the same.

Just like the little girl, you have been blessed with the building blocks of a wonderful life. But especially during this time of year, you may spell out the wrong words by foolish actions.

For example, in the rush and excitement of the Christmas season, does your life spell the word BUSY?

Hurried and harried, your opportunity will diminish to remember what God did for you on that holy night. If you allow no time or spaces for silence or reflection on the significance of that great gift given to you, life may resemble the chaos that swirls around you at this time of the year.

Another term you may spell out through misplaced priorities this season is the word THINGS. Often people substitute this word for that which is truly important and meaningful. In the resulting confusion, they treat things like people and people like things.

Engulfed in all the trappings of the season, in your haste to give "things," do not forget that Christmas is about God making Love known in the form of a child, not about something you trade or buy for yourself or someone else.

Yet another word that your actions may spell out, at the end of this sacred season, is DISAPPOINTMENT. When all is said and done, when another Christmas has come and gone, are you left with emptiness? Do you ask:

What did I miss?

Isn’t there more to Christmas than this?

If these thoughts haunt you, realize that you have missed a wonderful chance to open your heart again to the Savior who came that first Christmas to save us from ourselves.

This season, I suggest that you unwrap your heart to spell out JOY and THANKSGIVING through the building blocks of your life, because God gave the Son to be your Savior. Let the words of the angels’ song be the prayer written in the daily diary of your actions — "Peace on earth, goodwill toward all!"

The Gospel of John tells us, "In the beginning there was (only) the WORD, and the WORD was God, and the WORD was with God." Over the centuries humankind has come to interpret that WORD as LOVE, the most important word God has spelled throughout history.

God has spelled out that WORD in all the languages of the world, and God’s way of doing it was much better and clearer than anyone could ever imagine. God sent the One, the only Son, a loving person, to show you what LOVE is and that God loves you!

My counsel to you is to keep spelling the right words all through this Christmas season, expressing yourself in loving deeds as readable as the letters on that little girl’s toy blocks.

I have no idea what words she intended for God to spell out that night during her prayer. But I am deeply convicted that God has given you and me all the blocks we need to spell the JOY of what this Christmas should mean.


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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