Friday, December 24, 2010

'Tis the Reason

Those who don’t live with a biblical view of the world probably wonder what the fuss is all about at Christmas.  In fact, a whole lot of people would even argue that a world with or without the birth of Jesus is basically the same.  That birth, of that baby, changes nothing.  Never has, never will.

I don’t believe that. I believe that what happened on that night 2000 plus years ago was a game changer. Without what we call the ‘Incarnation’- God becoming flesh- …the world would be a sorry place and filled with even more terror and fear than we have now.  And our world would be standing on tiptoes, hoping for a sign from God that everything is going to be alright.

It boggles the imagination to think that God would send His own Son to our planet.  But God did. The Creator  sent His son, allowed Him to become flesh and blood, and approved of His moving into our neighborhood and into our lives. Jesus, motivated by love, was a man  on a mission to deal with the most damaging thing in the world. Sin. And sin is the cause of everything  horrible  humankind has ever conceived of doing.  It’s behind every shed tear and is, unfortunately,  part of the fabric of every human life. 

And how do you deal with something horrible and scary. God chose to go at it head on.  Face to face. And so a child was born. The visible image of the invisible God.  Flesh and blood but fully divine. Fully divine but as human as we are.

And so on Christmas we look into the eyes of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and sing the Christmas carol. The words of the carol are haunting …”the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” When we sing those words we’re proclaiming that  the hope of Christmas trumps all that is scary and discouraging.  The presence of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ongoing presence with us defines all that is good and all that brings hope.

I’ve always felt something as big as Christmas deserves a response. Whether they realize it or not everyone does respond. Some people respond by minimizing what this all means. Some try to ignore it completely.  I’ve heard some make fun of it all, others discount its message and secularize its intent, some create a small placeholder for it in the midst of a busy schedule but then scurry back to what really seems to give their life meaning and purpose, some debate the meaning of what we celebrate tonight. others become religious for a few weeks each year or at least when visiting mom and dad again. But when push comes to shove …the scoffing, the indifference, the debate, and  the religious posturing is just shorthand for saying: “I’m not buying what God is offering. Nice holiday.  Love the Christmas cheer. But I’m not buying this whole Christmas thing.” Maybe that even describes some of you reading this.

Years ago I realized that unless I found something or someone  bigger than I was that my fears would consume me.  I needed ‘hope’.  And I found that hope in the person of Jesus Christ. I tried looking other places, some good some not so good but I didn’t find what I was looking for. I discovered Jesus was more than an image in a  hallmark card. 

Through the reading of Scripture I heard Him claim to be the one our heart always yearns for.  And my heart leapt for joy.  I saw Him wrestle with evil and take my place on a wooden cross. And it finally dawned on me that I would never be good enough to get where I ultimately wanted to go.  But I didn’t have to be good enough for He was. On the cross I watched Jesus die.  But death could not contain Him. He rose from the dead and into my heart.  He promises to be with me always.  Just as he promises that to you. 

You see the birth we remember tonight is only one part of a bigger narrative.  Jesus’s friend John writes in a book called Revelation in the Bible.  What he writes help us get a glimpse of the even bigger story Christmas is part of .

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 …“It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Did you catch all that? In the bigger story every tear is wiped, there’s no more death, no more mourning or crying or pain or thirst of any kind.  There is a new heaven and a new earth.  This is the hope and the promise of Christmas faith. 

Whatever our best images of Christmas are now will someday be surpassed a thousand times over by the reality of what comes next.

All that is contained is this bigger picture deserves a response. There’s a Christmas present for all of us today. It’s the child in the manger, who becomes a teacher who speaks of real and abundant life, who’s capable of healing all wounds, and who is the Savior who frees us from burden of our sin.  The baby is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  And He is … for you.

And He says simply and clearly to all of us “I love you very much.  Will you give me your life?” And for those who say ‘yes’ someday they will know what it’s like to have Christmas forever.

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