Every week the lifestyle section of the newspaper has a "green" page. It's filled with "green living" tips and resources. The information is usually upbeat, positive, and doable for a suburbanite like myself.
Through this section I've learned some useful information. Like, not only how to compost, but why composting keeps methane producing organics out of the landfill. Our family has almost completely eliminated throw-away water bottles because we are aware of the cumulative impact of those ubiquitous containers. We also learned not to idle our cars for more than a minute or two - a hard enough habit to break in our extreme winter climes - never mind all those minutes spent in drive-through line ups. But we kicked the idling habit (with reusable mugs in hand, of course!).
I've reduced my paperback book habit by about 80% by buying ebooks. And even recycled my old obsolete palm pilot into an ereader instead of purchasing a new device. We get one newspaper per week instead of five or seven newspapers (and pay for a full subscription for the priviledge of reducing the waste paper). We cook from scratch (with local ingredients) as much as possible. All these small "green" habits have been encouraged and informed by this one page in our once-per-week newspaper.
So, with that history of great, usable info, I wasn't surprised at the recent "green Christmas" article. Among the now-predictable tips: LCD Christmas lights in modest proportion; a good quality fake Christmas tree; regifting or no gifting; and shopping the local farmers market for locally raised turkeys, to name a few.
I was able to sit back and go, LCD - check, tree - yup (except for the good quality part, our tree is the Charlie Brown equivalent of a fake tree, purchased for $15 one year when money was too tight to afford a real tree and since kept for sentimental - and environmental - reasons), regifting - no problem, and local turkey - we'll see.
But wait a second. That takes care of the world's idea of a green Christmas. What would God's idea be for a green Christmas? I don't think it is just about sewing reusable gift bags.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 23:The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
When I think about connecting our spiritual lives (or all of our lives, because according to Rob Bell, Hebrew has no word for spiritual) to the concept of green, this Psalm fills my mind. In verse two the psalmist tells me God makes me lie down in green pastures.
Which is kind of funny because as I write this the lanscape outside my window is blanketed in white. In fact, if Currier and Ives could withstand the -30C temperature + windchill, the setting would make a postcard-perfect painting. The field of white dotted with snow-leaden evergreens might gladden the hearts of those wishing for a white Christmas, but to me the sight represents months of difficult, cold winter until the advent of spring.
The fact is, I'm not getting anywhere near a green pasture in the near future and I'm well past the age when the idea of lying in the white field outside my window holds any appeal.
What I find interesting about this Psalm, is the original audience lived in an arid land. Green pastures would have been as rare, or more rare, than they are in Alberta, Canada. The land God gave to Israel wasn't a perpetually lush land. The people would have waited for the rains that brought rich grazing to their flocks with every bit as much anticipation as I look forward to spring thaws.
Our lives are like that. For the most part, much of our lives are barren and dry (or cold and white), or to use the Psalmist's next image, like wind-tossed seas. But this is not the condition God created us for. He created us to be under his care, well-fed, refreshed, and renewed in his presence. But it gets better. There is a reward for allowing God to shepherd us. From his presence our souls are restored and we are led into righteousness, for his name's sake (to Christ's glory). Is there a more beautiful metaphor for the simplicity of God's relationship with us?
This Christmas season, when you read about a "green Christmas" and do all the small things you can do to be a wise steward of what God has provided, will make small adjustments to your daily life to be more, or rather, experience more "green?" Will you leave your barren and dry or storm-tossed life for a few moments or minutes or hours to place yourself in your true Shephard's care? Will you be renewed in green pastures and refreshed beside still waters? Will I?