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I grew up on a farm a short distance west of Vandalia. My family was not affluent by any standard.
We worked hard on the family farm, and my parents at times probably struggled to get by. Once I became school age, my birthday presents usually included “school clothes” – jeans that were a bit too big. The jeans were usually so long they had to be rolled up at the beginning of the school year. I needed a belt to keep them from falling off. By the end of the school year, they fit fine. I had “everyday clothes” that I wore outside. These could get dirty or ripped without too much repercussion. I was taught by this action to take care of my good clothes.
Many look at the church and Jesus as one in the same. While Jesus is the head of the church, he is also the everyday Jesus many of us look for. Jesus started his life very humbly – in a stable. The very place of his birth indicated that he came for the common folks of his day.
His first visitors were the shepherds. They were working class folks. In one sense, they worked nights, keeping the predators away from the sheep. They were usually the employees of wealthier folks. They came to see the newborn king, and found him not in wealth but in simple surroundings. They identified strongly with the everyday Jesus.
I believe that Jesus grew up in surroundings that were simple. He probably engaged in the activities and work of the home like every other Jewish boy of his day. He was normal, even though he was God’s son.
Reaching adulthood, it became time for Jesus to embark upon his calling from his heavenly father, God. He announced his intentions in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
That proclamation of Jesus resonates with me. He came for the poor, for those who felt imprisoned by their life circumstances. He also came to give sight, not only to the physically blind but to the spiritually blind as well. He looked at folks who were oppressed in society and had great empathy for them. He announced that he was here to provide a sense of relief and contentment. He also stated that he came to proclaim that God is with us. The Jesus of the manger became the Jesus who is present to help us today.
Jesus desires to be a part of our uncertain lives today. He offers us a relationship with him that will bring contentment to our lives. He may not rescue me from what I am going through today, but he will journey with me along life’s path. The journey may be uncertain, yet the presence of a holy God in my life can provide certainty. Jesus says the faith of my heart makes me one of God’s children. God will take care of me. My desperate times in life will become less intense because of the presence of God.
While Jesus came for all on earth, he spent a great deal of time with those we might term the salt of the earth. We might view those as common folks who enjoyed a simple life and made the most of it. Jesus came to assure us of not only a life in heaven but an abundant life on earth. Abundance can be elusive and is defined uniquely by each individual.
My parents grew up and were married during the Great Depression. I learned many practical things from my Depression-era parents. One lesson was don’t waste food. I learned early in life to eat leftovers. If you didn’t, they were placed on the table again and again until they were eaten. Following the death of my parents, my sisters and I gathered to divide up items we wanted to keep from my parents. One item I chose was a pan that leftovers were reheated in. It is a bit stained and chipped, yet I remember it on the table many times with leftover whatever waiting to be eaten so we could have different food. My kids grew up eating leftovers, too. If you ask them, they may indicate that I tried to poison them with leftovers. Yet they survived.
Jesus didn’t come to give us leftovers, but an abundant relationship with him. His view of us as earthlings is that of great compassion. He knows our struggles, our dreams, and the frustrations we feel at times.
I am thankful and confident in my Lord. Jesus had a humble beginning in a stable. He spent the most influential portion of his adult life teaching people about God and helping them in everyday life. His death on the cross was between thieves and humiliating. His grave was borrowed and not needed for long. Most of all, Jesus came for you and me. We can respond to Jesus by acknowledging his works, casual belief or – best of all – giving our heart to him in great faith. I would like to believe that it is easier for us in Fayette County to fully believe in Jesus. We are everyday folks.
My prayer is that as you journey through life, you will journey with Jesus.