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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!