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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Can't Cross Jesus Out of Christmas

It has lately become a trend to abbreviate Christmas to "Xmas," particularly when dealing with limited space on billboards and in tweets, but this year I have seen it used with increasing significance as a way of "x-ing" out Jesus at Christmastime, as if He wasn't the central reason for the holiday in the first place. It's just another example of a modern movement to secularize this holiday.

I was thinking about that again today, and I realized that, even with all the efforts to remove Jesus, He just keeps coming back into conversation. Sometimes, I think the "x" even calls attention to His absence.  This "x" appears to be yet another symptom of conviction and guilt in society, if the news of more shootings, violence, etc. hasn't been enough to convince you that the general populace has tried to forget God and His authority over our deeds. 

Carrying that thought a little further, I remembered that the character "x" itself in English is itself a throwback to the Roman crucifixion cross. In essence, the symbol of the world's rejection of Jesus this season is the very one they used thousands of years ago at Passover time. That means, in essence, that the original Xmas (called Easter) falls in March this year.  If that doesn't give you pause, I don't know what will.

But, you know, some tried to wipe out all traces of Christ back then, and they failed then, too.

I've been deeply saddened by all the news this week, and I pray for comfort for the families of the victims.  I am reminded again that Jesus brings peace to the hearts of those who welcome Him in, so I have been praying for those who are searching for peace right now in the face of personal tragedies. I'm also praying that those who are thinking about dealing with their problems through violence will find the better way--Christ's way--which brings healing and restoration.

I hope those prayer warriors who are reading this blog will join me in that prayer this season, and if possible, Christians everywhere will take steps to remind people about the real significance of Christmas.  In effect, we would be putting Christ back at the front like He should be.  The world needs to know what we have found!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2: 14 NIV)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Momentous Event

Yesterday, I went gift shopping after dropping off a few packages at the post office.  It seemed as if everyone in this town was out shopping or mailing something!  I heard on the radio at one of my stops a local D.J. saying that this was what Christmas was all about--sparkly packages, smiles from children, spending time with family, and lots of good food.  I thought about that a lot on the way home.

It seems like a good thought.  I'd love for Christmas to be like a Norman Rockwell painting!  Still, I couldn't help thinking that it was a rather bleak and cold idea for many people to hold onto at this chilly time of year. What about those who couldn't afford gifts or gift wrapping? What about those who can't have children? What about those who have terribly dysfunctional families (or have lost loved ones this year)? What if they have developed allergies to the classic Christmas dishes?  I know a few people in every group, and I know their Christmas is still going to be good. Why?

Christmas is an event that God brought about (not a calendar day or a shopping mall), and it changed the world forever (and I don't mean that it changed the world economy).  Wherever you are, and whatever your life looks like today, you can take part in Christmas. You can start today!

Christmas brought peace...

A Snow Angel
When the angels came to tell the shepherds about Jesus' birth, they announced it by saying, " Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests," (Luke 2:12 NIV).  I see people quoting them every year, but their eyes glaze over as the words leave their mouths. Peace?  How can that be?  I've heard every year a few songs that ask Santa (or God) for world peace, but it's obvious that the world still doesn't understand it.

The peace the angels predicted is peace in the heart--a peace that means the end of hostilities between man and God.  That peace spills over into our interactions with our fellow man, but it isn't always returned to us. Not everyone really wants peace with God, and they also don't care to have peace with us. So, when you think about what the angels said, remember to pray. Pray for peace between you and God (which comes with salvation and repentance), and between you and your fellow man (which comes from self-control and sacrificial obedience to God's plan).  Also, pray for peace in everyone else's hearts by praying for their salvation, and for their growth in their relationship with God, which will lead them to be at peace with others.

Christmas brought rest...

With all of the work that has to be done every holiday, it seems like I hear a lot of complaints about people not getting to rest at Christmastime. Even so, the Bible says, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his," (Hebrews 4:9-10 NIV).  That "Sabbath rest" foreshadowed in the Hebrew ceremony of the Sabbath is the rest we find in Christ.

It means, more than anything, that we are not any longer slaves to sin, always driven to try to work off our sin with good works, always forced to seek approval from our masters and value from our work.  Now, good works and the approval and value of others has some worth, but God's approval is all that we require, and God gives the ultimate value to our work.  God has opened the doors to free us, should we choose to accept the gift He has offered.

By the way, there is no reason why we can't, as free Christians, stop and take a minute, or even a whole day, to enjoy the life God has given us. If life seems too complicated for that this month, maybe you should consider finding a way to simplify your life, or work in a few fun things along the way. If nothing else, slow down to look at the stars, or the snow, or the Christmas lights!

Christmas brought hope...

If you are in the middle of something that you can't escape, such as a grief period or an illness, it is good to know that Christmas in the end was an event that brought hope to the world. We hear bad news every day. The day of Jesus' birth was no different, right up until the time of Mary's labor, when she got the bad news that she was going to stay in the stable that night!  The world didn't know it then, but Jesus brought a way out of the worst news, and the worst possible news of all is death.

No matter what the circumstance is, bad news is no longer the last word on your life, if you have Jesus in your heart.  As it is written,
On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:7-8 NIV)
 Choose hope, and look forward expectantly for your great reward in heaven.  Celebrate what this Christmas means, and remember, Jesus is coming back soon!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Be Thankful for the Wait

I've been thinking a lot this week about how it seems that most of life is a period of waiting between the start and the finish of something, whether it's the time between graduation and getting a job, or between the work and the paycheck, or between engagement and marriage, or even between diagnosis and the cure.  It seems like we're always waiting for those God-ordained endings to the waiting period, and many times, we feel they can't come soon enough...but aren't the wait times also ordained by God?

Don't get me wrong; I believe that God is good, kind, and abundantly generous, but sometimes He teaches us things by delaying gratification, so to speak.  I personally know that I wouldn't be the person that I am now if God had not worked on me over a period of years.  Sometimes learning and growth doesn't happen without pressure.

This reminds me of a passage in first Peter, explaining why trials (and that can include long waits) are a good thing, that we should be thankful for--not take for granted!  I'll leave you with that passage, since I'm short on time this evening. I hope it is something you need this week!

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1Peter 1: 6-9 NIV)