Merry Christmas to you and your family!
The landscape of the Christmas Season is one of miss-directions, for the Christmas season takes us down many paths. One path we may be pulled in is the remembering Jesus and his birth, and that is a good thing. Other paths are but miss-directions, and not so good. For instance the season may lead us to dwell on our current troubles, or past experiences that we would just as soon take a breather from then reminisce about, but those troubles and memories keep popping up in all their rawness. The season may pull us toward some temptations or habit that we are weak in, and therefore Christmas becomes a time of extra diligence on our part to avoid temptation.
In a season that is miss-directed let us open our Bibles and see the true reason for the season: 1. 1John 3:5, “He appeared so that he might take away our sins.”
2. 1John 3:8, “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
3. John 14:9 [Jesus said] “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” I ask that I may comment here, so as you do not miss my point; Jesus came to reveal God to us.
4. Heb 9:28, “… He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Again I comment; Jesus came so that he can come back again.
Why He Came,
The Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the, “King of the Jews” (Matt 2:2). King Herod knew he was not the King of the Jews, for he was an Idumaen; a descendant of Esau. The image that arises is the struggle between Esau and Jacob; a struggle between the Godly and the ungodly. This struggle is played out in the three character types of Matt 2: The Magi, King Herod, and the Pharisees.
The Magi traveled a great distance to find the King. No distance, no time, or expense was too great for them to expend in order to find and worship at the feet of Jesus. The Pharisees were well schooled and expecting Messiah, but upon His arrival they were indifferent, for they would not walk 6 miles to Bethlehem to worship Him. Herod’s only interest was his grasp on power, and if he had to kill God in order to keep it, that was fine with him.
These images speak to us. We are either seeking to worship Jesus, we are indifferent to Him, or we are trying to kill Him in our lives in order to hold onto this world. We must ask this: In which character do we see our self?
Seeking the King,
During this season we read the stories of Christ birth: Mary’s song, Joseph yielding, a trip to Bethlehem, a simple birth, and Wise Kings following a mysterious star. They are the Christmas stories.
There never has been another story such as that of Jesus. Never was a story so tender, so beautiful, so strong, or so pathetic, but if it is just a story it would have lost its power long ago. Men do not remake their lives, nations are not reborn, societies influenced with new thoughts, and new conceptions by a story.
The world has not been transformed by the telling of the story of His birth, any more than it is transformed by the telling of his death, and ascensions. What has transformed the world is the living presence of Christ in every successive century. What Jesus began to do two thousand years ago he has never ceased doing, and thus the world has been transformed.
This church is not gathered around the memory of a majestically beautiful story. We are here because the same living Christ is here, doing among us what he did of old; making us holy.
The Presence of Christ,
The parents of the students who attend Marshall Elementary School in Flagstaff, Az., received the following letter, “Dear Families, the Holidays are fast approaching and along with them is our own 11th annual Multi-Age Festivus Extravaganza! It will be held the last week of school before winter break …”
Festivus, as you know, was a comedy skit from the TV show Seinfeld that aired in the 90’s. It was a made up celebration by one of the shows characters as an alternative holiday. The celebration consisted of a bare aluminum pole, the airing of grievances, and feats of strength. Festivus originated as a joke, and now it is being rammed down the throats of gullible students as something to celebrate.
The children of today will be facing great challenges in their future. Therefore, it is the obligation of our society’s institutions to equip our children with truths they can use to meet those challenges. When a school teaches their students that a joke is a truth, they imply that life is a joke, and that school has abdicated its responsibility. They might as well teach their students’ problem solving is simply a matter of bread and circuses.
Teach the Truth,
I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving Day. I think it’s our nicest holiday, for it has not gotten out of hand with commercialism. It still remains a time for family, a time for reflection, and a time to thank God for his blessings.
As we begin our holiday season I’m reminded of something Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” These are great thoughts for us to reflect on in the days that are ahead.
As we celebrate this year take a moment to remember Dr. King’s words, and then pray for the church. Remember our progress as a church is not inevitable and therefore, we need to continuously stand watch over it. Not resting on our story, but letting God write his story in us.
A nominal Christian is a Christian who in reality treats Jesus as if he were an insignificant or trifling person. At one time there was reverence for him, but then the challenge of life happened. Events came and went in the person’s life and each was met, but the once held reverence for God was replaced by self-reliance. The once held awe for God was condensed down to yearly nods at Christmas and Easter.
On occasion there were scares in the nominal Christians life: A sick child, the results of a medical test, or the death of a beloved, but 12,000 days have passed, 12,000 shrugs, 12,000 ho-hums and it has come down to, “God who?”
What impresses me about Jesus is he is a man of invitation: “Come follow me,” (Mt. 4:19); “Come to me” (Mt. 11:28); “Come and see” (John 1:39); “Come and drink” (Jon 7:37); “Come and dine” (John 21:12). Jesus is always inviting us back to him, and in those invitations there is never judgment.
Life is a challenge, that’s a constant, but it is never challenging to God. Have you become a nominal Christian? It’s not too late, for Jesus is inviting you back.
Nominal no more,
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
– King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition