Sunday evening I found myself sitting at the Pope’s Table. Okay, before you start to worry and think I may have hit my head while hanging mistletoe or something, I was at a local Italian restaurant with one of our church's LIFE groups enjoying a Christmas dinner. The table had enough room for 14—there were 19 of us. We were so close together, we had to take turns eating to prevent the crashing of elbows. There was this “lazy Susan” in the middle where they would bring out food and it would circle the table. I patiently waited for the low calorie options that never seemed to come. Instead, I dove into the Chocolate Vesuvia—a healthy dish despite its name (the sound you hear is the LIFE group laughing at that suggestion). It was about 3 tiny bites into “heaven”, er, desert that I sat back and began to ponder the situation. Around this table were people I had known for years. There were others who did not know I existed just a year ago. To my left and right sat two of the best friends I have and their exceptionally better-halves. The only thing I could think was, “Life is good.” I know it sounds like a beer commercial but can life get any better than when it’s done with people you love and respect? Is there any other way to live the God life than in the company of people you know and who know you—I mean really know you?
Let me be really transparent with you. Just an hour before that meal, I was trying to think of every reason in the world not to go. Not because I didn’t want to be there and not because I don’t love those people. Simply put, it was because I was in a place that Satan wanted me—tired, frustrated, whiny, and complaining about my lot in life and why I have to be “alone” this Christmas. As I took those last bites of chocolate, I was reminded that I don’t have to be alone—not at Christmas nor at any other time of the year. I have a God who loves me desperately. I have a family—physical and spiritual—that he has given to me. I have friends who would carry me as far as I needed them to. Life is so much better when it’s done this way. Let me encourage you with two thoughts. One, if my pre-meal mood describes you this season, decide now that you will not face life the way the enemy wants you to. You are loved by God and by others. Won’t you make a commitment to be in community with others who are following after the One who loves you most? Secondly, if you can’t relate to that mood, understand that there are others who do. Will you make every effort to extend your love to them this Christmas, to relieve their loneliness and to remind them in the most concrete ways possible that they are loved? Eighteen of my closest friends did that very thing for me last Sunday. I am a blessed man because of it. Thank you, God, for Ridgeview. Thank you, God, for friends and family. Thank you, God, for Chocolate Vesuvia.