I noticed something the other day while eating lunch at Guadalajara. Three men were checking out up at the front counter and engaging in conversation with one of the employees … nothing unusual so far. Then I noticed one of them pull something out and hand it to the worker behind the counter … again, nothing too strange. But then this man motioned to the worker to kiss whatever it was he had handed to him. The employee, as requested, kissed it and handed it to another employee who also kissed it. It was evident that the three men at the counter were greatly pleased by this activity.
I suspected these men were Catholic and after they cleared out, I asked the Guadalajara employees what I just witnessed. They confirmed that these men were Catholic …. in fact, a couple of them were priests. One of the priests years ago had apparently met Mother Theresa and had a few strands of her hair in small plastic bag, approximately the size of a sugar packet. He had instructed the Guad workers to kiss it in order to receive a blessing.
I’m not Catholic, certainly not an expert on Catholicism, and in no way want to demean those who are Catholic, but I feel pretty confident in saying that kissing a bag containing a few strands of someone’s hair will not bring a true blessing, even if the hair belongs to Mother Theresa. There are many attributes of Mother Theresa that I would love to see displayed in my own life but I don’t believe that’s going to happen by kissing her hair.
So how are we to think about God’s blessings? A few years ago social media seemed to be obsessed with the hashtag #blessed. Home decor stores are full of items to purchase that announce to anyone entering our homes we are “blessed.” It’s not uncommon to greet someone, ask how they are doing, and get the answer “blessed.” So exactly what does it mean to be blessed? How do we get a blessing? I suspect we all would agree that the source of blessing is God Himself. But our questions tend to revolve around the substance of blessing … what exactly are we getting when we get a blessing? I contend the substance of blessing is the exact same as the source of blessing, God Himself. A true blessing isn’t merely getting good things from God, it’s actually getting more of God. I’m as guilty as anyone I know in misunderstanding the nature of God’s blessings. I constantly long for things from God rather than long for more of Him. Nancy Guthrie says,
“Since more of God himself is the substance of blessing, whenever we ask him to bless us, we’re essentially inviting him to pervade all of the ordinary aspects of our lives. When we ask him to bless our plans, we’re inviting him into them, inviting him to even disrupt or change them, believing that his plans are always better than ours. In asking for his blessing we’re confessing that the outcome of our lives will not be the sum of our grand efforts or accomplishments. Instead, anything and everything good that emerges from our lives will be a result of his sovereign presence in it.”
Am I ready for God to bless me with more of Himself? This opens the door for potential suffering, pain, loss, sacrifice, and failure. This means I must learn, like Paul, the secret of being content in any and every circumstance. This means I must live by faith, trusting in the glorious truth that I am already blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).
It’s pretty clear that blessing comes by faith, not by jumping through the right hoop. In many ways it would be preferable to be able to kiss someone’s hair, have an evangelist lay hands on me, send a check to a particular ministry, have gold dust fall from the ceiling during worship (an actual claim of recent years), or any other such way to receive something good from God. But the real blessing is to taste of the goodness of the Lord.
So my prayer for you this Christmas is that you would be blessed! And while I do hope you get some good stuff as gifts, my real desire is that all of us get a bit more of Jesus. He is our true Christmas blessing!