Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fixing Christmas

In our Christian circles we preach to one another that Christmas is not about glitz, glitter, presents, and busyness.  Christmas is about Jesus.  So we read Scripture, think about Jesus' earthly entrance and light advent candles in anticipation.  Even so, we tend to get caught up in the fun and frolic apart from Jesus or remain stoic, removed from the celebration.
Like Christmas, our ministry efforts tend to warble and wane.  We get easily distracted by meetings,  classes,  fellowships, and rules, both written and invisible.  We lose heart, measuring godliness by human standards, forgetting that other's lives and reflections are nothing less than carnival mirrors, distorted, stretched, and warped by sin and tendencies.  
What funny creatures we are!  No matter what we do, we can't get it right.  A few weeks ago I slumped in the church van and sighed, "I can't be nice one more minute!  I've prayed, I thought I was relying on the Holy Spirit, but I am done.  D-o-n-e. Done."  A young voice chirped, "But you're only human."   The pang of truth!  How right he was.  It's not possible to get it right every time or do it perfectly or achieve success to the same degree as others.  We're only human.
It is not until we come to the end of ourselves that we look to God Himself.  Perhaps we struggle with confused priorities, or a need for humility, or the sidelong glances of others.  Regardless of the excuse, this is the root of our error; the root of disbelief, of tossing to and fro. God is not at the center.  He is unknown, unsought, unheeded.
In our despair, we cry out and draw near, squinting and prodding through Scripture like a blind man seeking shelter, only to discover He is not what we imagined.  He no longer fits the mold of our comfortable beliefs.  The harder we look and the farther we follow, the more different He is. Like Alice in Wonderland, we have entered a new world of spiritual focus and dimension.  But as we gaze upon our Savior, our Lord and King, we are changed.  We have become different from ourselves; different from those around us. 
And, as God sees fit, He blesses us in quiet moments to reveal that we are doing good, seeking justice and reproving the ruthless, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow without realizing it.  Not because of who we are or what we can do, but because of who God is and how He lives through us.  This is the obedience--not the jump-in-the-mold-of-everyone-around-me--that pleases God. 
And Christmas?  Christmas is not about me.  It's not about my family.  It's not about those in need.  Christmas is about God.  It's about Jesus' obedience and love as He left the wonder of worship, took on human form along with its limitations and made Himself our sacrifice.  As we look closer into the person of Christ, Christmas becomes much more...and much less.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.
'When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts?
Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'" (Isaiah 1:11-18)

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