I know…you might be thinking that after the Christmas presents are unwrapped and the Christmas parties are behind you, and the relatives have returned home, you might think that you are ok with it all being over. It went by quick enough and now life can get back to normal. But are we too quick to count down the days rather than making the days count?
I wonder if we “hustle” the Christmas season along too quickly! It should be a time on the calendar when we slow down enough to think about God coming in the flesh to live among us for 33 years. How many conversations of wonder do we have with friends and relatives about this incredible event? Instead I am afraid that our children hear conversations like: “I have so much to do or we have to run here or I must stop and get this, etc?” Do they ever hear in depth conversations about Jesus at this time of year? The problem is we have “rushed our spirituality” right out the window. We have created a “go faster” mentality about the whole Christmas thing. Everyone brags about their busy-ness and flurry of activity as if that qualifies us for some star in our imaginary character crown! Maybe we have just forgotten the “Martha & Mary” story in the Gospels.
I keep thinking of that verse in Luke [2:19]where Mary kept going over in her mind what the Shepherds told her about the angelic announcement regarding the birth of Jesus. She slowed down and just thought it through. Good news…great joy…a savior! No one can embody all of that stuff in the human family. It took Jesus Christ to bring all of that to us. And Mary just could not stop thinking about it.Can we?
Recently God called R. C. Sproul home to glory. The one quality that I appreciated most about him was his ability to make us think deeply and long about who Christ is and what He came to do. You could not help but linger at the Biblical table laden with the subject of Jesus Christ when he taught and wrote.
Somehow in this coming year we need to learn to take the “quick” out of our to do list. Jesus Christ is worth some time to contemplate! We need to “linger awhile at the table!” Think it thru
Can’t you imagine Charlie Brown saying to Linus…Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to be a repeat of last year? There are the Christmas cards to send, the parties to attend, the shopping to do, the meals to prepare and the travel plans to visit relatives or the work of hosting family members. In the words of one writer “Christmas time is rather predictable.” Could you take last year’s calendar entries and just lay this year’s plans over that and come up with about the same thing? Does this sound pessimistic? Cynical? A kill-joy attitude? I don’t want it to sound like that.
But here is the thing. When Christ came here and was born as a baby, it was a total shocker! There was nothing the same about it compared to all the other births through all the other years. God just knocked our socks off with how the whole birth thing of Jesus played out. He was virgin born as the King/Messiah with no royal surroundings or heavy weights politically to accompany the event. God never consulted us and did not allow us to weigh in with our opinions on how it should be done. He told us in the Old Testament what He was going to do, and then He just did it! Jesus showed up as a baby. Our future hopes totally rested on what appeared to be shaky birth circumstances. How will this thing ever fly with so little of what we have come to believe are necessary components for success? No financial backing, no public solicitation for support, no powerful dignitaries to speak up for the babe [except the chief honcho who wanted to kill him when the news leaked out]. Yeh, pretty shocking how God does things.
Sometimes God does that with our lives too. It is coming up on Christmas and suddenly you lose your job and face financial set-backs. Shocked, right? Or you approach the Christmas season with a bit of dread and discouragement because God allowed some sorrow or difficulty to come your way since last Christmas. Never thought you would face that, right? Or your carefully laid plans are messed up by some unexpected turn of events or some “clod” decision made by some relative or boss. Surprised and frustrated, right? Well, your life might be “right on schedule,” for God is doing things His way! The kind of God who came up with Christmas is the God who does things His way! Remember what God said in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The virgin birth of Christ in this world was God doing things His way. It was proof positive that we need Him if we are ever going to survive this life and the eternity to come. Salvation comes through God’s work and plan not through my efforts and plans [Titus 3:5]. Joseph and Mary could not produce their own savior even if they wanted to. And life unfolds in that same way. In most of life’s circumstances we find ourselves pretty helpless. The Old Testament Joseph in Genesis told his brothers that all the bad stuff they did which God allowed in his life was meant for good [Gen. 50:20]. The events of his life made no sense to Joseph until years later. His own puzzlement, helplessness, and frustrations over what was happening in his life revealed the surprising work of God for his good down the road [and for the good of others too] . The God that came up with the shocking surprises of the birth of Jesus in this world is the very same God that is doing things His way in my life and yours. Randy Alcorn in his book “If God is Good” put it this way: “If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good.” The kind of God who came up with Christmas is the God who is in charge and the God who is good! That makes a difference! Think it thru
Foundations are pretty important components. When my wife and I were looking for a house several years ago we were shown a possibility that had most of the features we needed for our family. All was well until we went down into the basement. There is nothing more disheartening than to walk down into a basement of a house you are starting to get excited about only to discover, as we did, that the walls were bowing in. That one got crossed off of our list in a hurry. The same thing can happen to us at Christmas time. We can develop cultural cracks, spiritual cracks and even personal cracks in our Christmas foundation. We can buy into the cultural preoccupation with what I want and what I can get; with what I must do and what I want to do. We can forget to give out the good news or take in the “Good Word” of God because we have too much on our plate preparing for “Christmas Celebrations.”
What foundational components should we make sure our children and family understand as we celebrate Christmas together…components that will prevent cracks in our Christmas foundation?
The first component is this: Jesus birth was the invasion of none other than God himself stepping into our world. This person was God in the flesh, come here to live among us, love us up close, give himself up for our trouble and our sin, and then promise to redeem us on the strength of grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone [John 1:11-14].
The second component is this: Jesus birth was “one-of-a-kind.” He was virgin-born, accomplished by power of the Holy Spirit. His was a miraculous birth as well. Since all of this this is true, Jesus Christ qualifies as the sinless, perfect Savior for sinners. He never sinned because he never possessed a sinful human nature. There is a perfect substitute for us that God accepts on our behalf [Matthew 2; Luke 2]
The third component is this: Jesus was born to die. His birth was purposed in redemption. He did not come to make a place in history but to change the destiny of sinners. The cross was at the heart of the manger. In Jesus death I find real life. Jesus said in John that the shepherd gives up his life for the sheep. Christmas-gifting was never seen on such a grand scale as that.
See any foundational cracks in your Christmas celebration? If so may I encourage you to get the mortar out and seal up the cracks so that your family continues to have a good foundation. Think it thru
Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s insight about her pregnancy has long intrigued me. I believe there is more here than meets the eye. For a young woman song writer Mary shows great maturity beyond her years. Of course we know what was recorded in Luke 1 was inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. She sees the birth of Christ as Divine Intentional Intervention not only in her life but in the world at large. Did you ever notice her catalogue of God’s intervening actions as she saw it? Let me bullet point them for you:
* He has looked on the humble estate of his servant
* He has done great things for me
* He has shown strength with his arm
* He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
* He has filled the hungry with good things
* He has sent the rich empty away
* He has helped his servant Israel
Mary saw God’s powerful intervention as one of salvation and provision. She was conscious of her lack of power, influence, and resources, yet she saw what God was doing in sending Christ as transcending all that the mighty, the rich, and those on the thrones of power could do even with everything they had. In comparison they were weak, ineffective, and powerless to change what really needed changed. She speaks of God’s mercy and His holy name as those things that matter most. She starts her song of overwhelming worship with the simple response of magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in God her Savior. When we think of all that was happening by the entrance of Christ into this world, we are meant to be moved by the sheer force of God’s intentions for His son and for the mercy that was offered to sinners. Can we stand by Mary with our spiritual magnifying glass and pull these truths up close? The response of my heart ought to be nothing less than outstanding joy! Rescued by such divine intentional intervention…sinners brought close! Think it thru