Sunday, December 23, 2012

Silent Night

I come from a family of transplanted Yankees - upstate New Yorkers who relocated to West Texas. Even though we moved to Texas when I was 8 and I have spent 25 of the last 30 years living in Texas, there is something in me that causes me feel unsettled and makes me long for 'home'. Home where there are seasons: Tall green hills to roll down in the Spring, fireflies to catch all Summer, blazing colors in the Fall, and s-n-o-w in the winter.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, that one of my favorite memories from a childhood in West Texas was a surprisingly cold and wet winter that resulted in several snowstorms. I remember one night looking out into the dark and realizing that it was snowing...and the ground and roads were already covered in several inches of the white stuff.

My sister and I put on our shoes and coats and walked out front to stand in the falling snow and then crossed the street and stood under the circle of light the street lamp made on the ground. The world felt completely still as if we were the only ones awake. Not a single car track or footprint (except for our own) marred the white expanse. The thick cloud ceiling seemed to make things feel closer, like a blanket had been thrown down from the sky to cover us. There was absolutely no sound except that which the snow made as it hit the ground: A quiet, almost non-existent, 'sh sh sh sh'. When I think about it I can still feel, see, and hear what I experienced in those moments. Even though it was cold, dark and silent, I was not scared. instead, I had a sense of profound joy and wonder that I have never quite experienced again. Looking back on it now, I think my wonder in those moments came from an awe of something bigger than myself: A sense of the stillness that comes with God's peace.

It was a holy moment....

Tonight is Christmas Eve. It is another holy night filled with awe and wonder at the work that God is capable of doing.

A night where miracles are not only anticipated with longing, but fulfilled. A night where God's peace and joy reigns over all the world and we fall silent before His glory.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

May you experience Christmas filled with awe at the presence of God With Us and know the quietness that accompanies His peace.

Merry Christmas.

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, December 17, 2012

O Little Town

I think most of us have been shocked and appalled by the recent shooting rampages that people have recently resorted to in an attempt to express their rage and disappointment in their lives.

Friday's tragedy in Connecticut cemented the thought, at least in my mind, that there is something very wrong in our world and country.

I'm not sure what it takes to motivate a person to walk into a school and open fire on innocent children, but I know that it is evil.

In this season of Advent, the tragic events of this past Friday can make us question the hopes and expectations we carry in our hearts one week before Christmas, the day we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.

The families who lost children, spouses and parents last week have a long journey ahead. We can only pray that God will comfort and carry them through this time.

I know with a certainty, however, that no matter what events take place in this broken world, God is with us. These events, as horrific as they are, are not new. Particularly in this season, I remember the massacre of the children in Bethlehem as Herod sought to kill the child who's reign was to supplant his own.

God's plan to save the world through his son Jesus was not, is not, and never will be deterred by the actions of humans.

One day, we will all be reunited with those who have gone before us: whether they were cut down in tragedy or died after a long, productive life.

God's plan to save us from ourselves is still in place and being put into action.

This coming week, 'the hopes and fears of all the years' will be met and conquered by the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. In Him, we can find comfort, peace, and salvation no matter how horrific and confusing the circumstances are in which we find ourselves.

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Thursday, December 13, 2012

O Holy Night

Often, right about at this point in the Christmas season, I become weary.

The house is decorated. My shopping is completed. The gifts are wrapped. My seasonal 'work' is done and I no longer know what to do with myself.

The next two weeks begin to feel like I am anticipating an end of something instead of a beginning. It's not Christmas yet but I'm already done with it: ready to go ahead and take down the decorations and move on into 2013.

My premature 'quitting' of Christmas hasn't really been clear to me before.

I'm not sure if it's memories of Christmas' past or the lack of certain people in my Christmas present but there is a sense that something I can't replace is missing.

I was sitting with my very sick little boy last night and had flash backs to his infancy. (Big boys of 8 don't often let you hold and rock them anymore). Those flashbacks made me think about the nativity and the whole gamut of emotions that came into play because God came down to earth.

These thoughts somehow shifted my perspective of Christmas to the correct perspective. Celebrating Christmas doesn't require anything except acknowledging the presence of Emanuel in the world.

His presence is what makes everything else in the world 'right'. If I search for Him in the next two weeks instead of what I have been culturally conditioned to expect from Christmas, this Christmas will be a holy experience.

Chesney Szaniszlo

'Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt His worth.

The thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!'


Monday, December 10, 2012

We Three Kings....

...Has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols. I think as a child, I probably liked the 'Ohhhh...Star of wonder...' part but as I have grown up, my appreciation for this carol has, too.

I like that it is about people who are truly searching for Christ because they want to honor and glorify Him, not just take from Him.

That's not very easily done. I think most of our personal discipleship journeys reach a point where we are struggling with this very thing: The movement from the immature demand that God glorify us  through His power to God's being glorified by His strength working in us.

That's what I want to be able to do. I want to stop seeking things for myself and start truly seeking after God.

Chesney Szaniszlo

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light


Monday, December 3, 2012

All I want for Christmas is a little peace

Those of you who have been reading my blog the past few years know that I Struggle (the capital 'c' is on purpose) with perfectionism. For me it's a pursuit that is mandated by my personality.

Unfortunately, my pursuit of perfectionism really runs me, rather than the other way around. I keep chasing an image, believing that once I become it, I will be able to rest. What happens once I reach a goal, however, is that a new one pops up. Or I decide what I did previously really wasn't good enough.

It is a destructive cycle that allows me no respite from anxiety or any contentment and in turn takes its toll on me and my family.

So this year, for Advent, I am going to try to at least temper, if not end, my pursuit for perfection. I know that my search for perfection is really a search for acceptance and unconditional love: Two things that God has already offered but I have not completely accepted.

My 'work' this season is to stop searching for outward affirmation which I know will never be enough and accept the love and grace that Jesus dies to give me.

- Chesney Szaniszlo


Saturday, December 1, 2012

I still haven't found what I'm looking for....

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and Live Oak is once again inviting you to join us on the 24 day journey that concludes with the birth of the Holy baby Jesus in a stable.

This year our theme is expectation and searching. If you follow our sermon series you will see that our Advent series is call "Still haven't found what I'm looking for."

I've invited people from our congregation to give us a glimpse into their personal quest for the 'thing' they have looked for in the past or continue to search for in the present.

My hope is that in the heart of our journeys this season, we will discover God's presence.

Please join us on the journey and in the conversation by checking out Live Oak's FaceBook page every week day during the the season of Advent.

-Chesney Szaniszlo