Overflow at Christmas

If not a tendency, there is certainly a stereotype that us Brits are good at accepting less than the best. You know the sort of thing I mean – we are British and therefore we don’t expect too much, whether that be from the weather, our friends and family or our general lot in life. Things are just the way they are and with a stiff upper lip, we will just get on with things. The keep calm and carry on spirit is part of British culture that doesn’t show any sign of abatement. I dare say that a good number of otherwise curable ailments are left too long simply because “we don’t want to cause any bother”.

I follow a twitter account called Very British Problems which epitomises this stereotype. They tweet things like “Brit 1: ‘Hope you had a great weekend’. Brit 2: ‘I did thank you! Hope you did too!’  Translation: both had very plain weekends.”

What is said in jest hides a reality that for the Christian can be very restricting.

If there is one thing true about our experience of God thus far it is that there is more to be experienced. It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian for decades or days, God has abundantly, exceedingly more for us to discover about Him and His love for us.

The danger is that at least for us Brits, we experience a little and become satisfied. It’s as if we don’t believe we are due any more. What if there isn’t enough to go around? I we get too much, others won’t have the same experience, and that simply wouldn’t be fair, or British.

Back in 2001, Paul Oakley wrote a song that has a decidedly unBritish line in it.

“You fill my cup, and when I’m full, You give me more ‘till I overflow.”

I love that. We know from James 1 that “if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously without reproach and it will be given him.” The truth is that God is in the business of exceeding our expectations. There is more than enough to go around.

Ephesians 5:18 tells us that we shouldn’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.  The Amplified bible translates the second part of that verse, “but ever be filled and stimulated with the Holy Spirit.

It’s not supposed to be a one time thing that happens when we become Christians. It’s something that should happen on a daily basis. God knows what He is doing. We humans are prone to leak. Some of us leak more than others. The question is what are you leaking over? And perhaps more importantly, is the leak a gush or a trickle?

I think if many of us are honest with ourselves, our “ever filled” situation is restricted to Sunday mornings and the odd mid week meeting. If we miss one of these for some reason, or the preacher “isn’t up to their usual standard” we find ourselves heading into the coming week with less than the ideal amount of fuel to successfully navigate all that life has in store for us.

We then find ourselves woefully unequipped for the opportunity to tell our friends and family about the ‘hope that is within us’(1 Peter 3:15) because we don’t have the words to say.

I think the beautiful thing about being filled to overflowing, and our perpetual leaking is that we often don’t need words. Our overflow is witness enough. That overflow will manifest in a number of different ways, and may be different for each person we encounter. From simply being there and changing an atmosphere, to hugging someone to tell them they are loved, to quietly praying while things go on around us, people will notice the difference. If the overflow from us is a gentle trickle, it may take weeks, months or years for that difference to be noticed. It may even go unnoticed. If however we have taken God at His word and allowed ourselves to be filled on a constant basis it is inevitable that we will spring more leaks. Before we know it, everything we come in contact with will be wet, perhaps even saturated with the presence and love of God.

The capacity for overflow is not restricted to the container. (The amount of overflow may be, but the capacity for it to happen is not.) The only restriction to how much God is able to pour in to us depends on whether we move from the downspout, or place a cap or lid on.

There are a number of ways that we can ensure we are in a position to receive. Perhaps the most important one though is the removal of the lid. To say to God that we are willing to be filled. To allow Him to pour as much as He wants in to us. To be very Un-British about it. To put aside our traditions (those we do for traditions sake rather than because we actually mean them) and allow Him to do whatever He wants through us.

I can’t promise you a smooth ride if you do. You are often going to find yourself in a place where you have no clue what is going on. To quote K in Men in Black, when asked if joining Men in Black was worth it – “Oh yeah – its worth it.”

This Christmas many of us will find ourselves spending time with people who challenge us. Be that Aunt Mabel who always expects everything to be brought to her and never does anything to help, or Uncle Sydney who drinks too much and makes inappropriate comments to your friends who have popped in for a quick Christmas catch up.

If we have taken God seriously at His word and allowed ourselves to be being filled with Holy Spirit, if we have opened ourselves up to overflow and leaking in gushes rather than trickles, we may find that we don’t have to do much to change the atmosphere and spread Truth in our homes, offices and gatherings this Christmas.

May you all know the Presence of God this Christmas – may His Love surround you and those you love at this time.

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