One of my favorite pet peeves of our modern world is the depersonalization of society. Banks, stores, customer service centers, even the services providers such as cable, satellite and cell phones all have instituted cost saving measures that limit the amount of people they need to handle customers service issues. When you call, instead of a person, you get an automated system and a menu of choices that never seem to really "hit the nail on the head" when it comes to the reason you called. After amount 10 minutes of cycling through the menu you finally get the privilege of waiting for a "customer service representative" who is often not the most happy and pleasant person you've spoken to all day. This is all a sign of the relational break down of our society. And it's not like we really mind, we enjoy the cheeper rates that automated systems provide, we also enjoy the convinces of other impersonal services we use everyday.
We with draw money from an ATM, instead of going into the bank, we order food on-line, instead of calling in our order, or better yet eating in the store. I can't count how many of my friends and Amanda's friends who have met their spouses through on-line dating sites, instead of the old fashion way, at work, church, social clubs or even the bar. On-line dating services are a perfect examples of this. On-line dating services like Match.com and eHarmony.com do all the heavy lifting for you. They weed out the people who are not like you and present only the people with like personalities and values. There's nothing wrong with that, but people use to have to do that themselves and actually interact with people that might end up not liking. eHarmony prides it's self in being a place where busy people can go and meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Another example is Facebook and twitter. Crazy things get posted on Facebook. Things people would never say to or about each other in person, but cyberspace is so impersonal it's easy. And the same thing can be said for e-mails and txts. We just shoot them off half cocked, from the hip and don't even take the time to wait and see how we feel about the situation 20minutes later!
One of the most personal and relational times we have each year is Christmas. Christmas is, in my opinion, the last relational bulwark in our society, but even thats under threat. Internet shopping, cyber gift giving and places like the iStore and other content universes (google, amazon, etc.) make it easy to purchase and give a gift without ever even talking to the merchant and even worse, the recipient of the gift. But for now on-line shopping and other impersonal things like that still pale in comparison to traditional forms of shopping. During the Christmas season we are out and about! In the malls, downtown, and at department stores. We wish passer bye a "merry Christmas and a happy new year." We smile at the cashier and tell her stores about our children, siblings, spouse or parents and why we are buying this item for them. It truly is a time for rejoicing and a time for relationships!!
In our passage this week St. Paul admonishes the church in Philippi to rejoice!!! It is such a good suggestion that he says it twice, "rejoice, again I say rejoice." What did the angles say when they appeared to the shepherds? Rejoice!!! It's the same idea. Paul's reasoning for encouraging the Philippians and us to rejoice is the same reason the Angles said rejoice, because Christ is with us!! Another reason Paul was rejoicing was because of the relationships he enjoyed, even the relationship he had with the Philippians. Even while in prison Paul maintained meaningful relationships and what was at the heart of these relationships? Christ.
You know there are three types of relationships we work on; inward, outward and upward. During Advent and Christmas the upward and inward are easiest, but the outward suffers. Really during anytime of the year the outward can suffer, but when we are busiest we are most hurried and according to preacher, author and pastor Charles Stanley "hurried is the number one enemy of relationships." We get so hurried during the Christmas season our outward relationships, the ones that matter the most during this season, suffer the most. And it's ironic too. Advent is a season of waiting, a moment of eager yet paientent longing and we call it the "busiest time of the year."
Let me ask you, do you know the color of your doctors eyes? How about the name of the girl who checks you out at Toms, or the Shell station? Do you know the name of the baby that your waitress delivered? If not, maybe you need to slow down. Former Speaker of the house Sam Rayburn said "the tree most important words in the english language are not I love you, but wait a minute." This Advent season, don't be in such a hurry, take time and wait a minute to minister to others and to hear from God.