WHAT KIND OF GOD CAME UP WITH CHRISTMAS?

god-at-christmas 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

 

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Do our best opportunities come as surprises?

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It was Doug Munton in his little book IMMERSED that talked about what he calls “midnight opportunities” that got me to thinking about those times of witness that pop up most unexpectedly.  He spoke of Paul & Silas, wrongly imprisoned…having a bad day…yet at the end of the day you find them worshiping God in singing and the text says that the prisoners were listening to them. Talk about a surprising opportunity.  Can you image the evangelistic planning meeting Paul’s team had before this? Do you think it went something like this?  Well, guys  when we go to Philippi, lets do something really radical,like healing a demon-possessed girl, ruin some wicked businessmen’s livelihood and then  get ourselves beaten up and thrown in jail. Then about midnight when we get our breath back, let’s have an evangelistic service and sing some special music to draw in the crowd of prisoners and then we will have a preaching service and share the Gospel.  Ludicrous thinking! We know that is not what happened.
But it was at midnight in jail after a rough day’s ministry they decided to talk to God in prayer and break out in spontaneous praise to God when the surprising opportunity happened.  There was an earthquake, the jailer became unglued and was about to commit suicide when Paul stopped him, and shared the good news about Christ and led he and his family to the Lord. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties these guys faced nor overlook the pain and frustration they no doubt felt. But they got their eyes open to where God had put them and what God decided to do right there in that tough, unfair circumstance.

Sometimes my “eyes” don’t see those surprising opportunities because I am too focused on the “jail” or the “mean people” who took advantage of me. Did you ever pray, Lord give me this so I can be a better witness? Then the surprising thing takes place: God takes something away so I can be an even better witness! So back to our question: Do the best opportunities come as surprises? Maybe so! Join me in asking God to keep our eyes open to those unexpected even surprising moments. Think it thru…