Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Story

(Guest post by Pastor James husband of McH.  Lets all give him a big round of applause!)

Hello everyone,

I was asked to be a guest blogger for Christmas and I am humble and thankful for the opportunity.  My hope is that everyone who reads this is blessed and able to find peace over the holidays.  I know it can be a pretty crazy time.

I am posting about Christmas.  The beautiful, scandalous, often romanticized, and rarely fully explored story of the birth of Messiah.  Something fundamentally and forever changed in the relationship between God and Man on that night.  God who was faraway and seperated from Man by our sin and rebellion decided that our great divorce was over and that He loved us enough to drop everything and come down and live among us.  God broke into our reality and reconciled us back to Him.

I want to share the words of Luke 2:8-14 so famously read by Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
  14  “Glory to God in the highest,
       and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

I used a lot of adjectives to describe this story at the start of the blog.  Allow me to share why.

This story is beautiful because it illustrates the all surpassing love of God.  He left His throne in heaven, emptied Himself, and came to earth as a helpless baby that needed His diaper changed.  He came in low cirmcumstances to low people.  His plan was to love us, to be among us, and to save us.  God lived just like we did and scriptures say He therefore knows exactly what we go through.  Our God understands.

The story is scandalous because He was born to a 14 year old girl outside of wedlock.  Imagine Joseph telling all his friends, "No really, God got her pregnant."  No one would believe it today and no one believed it then.  God was born in a stable because no one had room for them in a house or in an inn.  A scandalous foretelling of how little room any of us have in our lives for God.  Its a scandal because He surrendered perfect glory in heaven and ignored the glory and riches of earth.  He wasn't born in a palace, or to the wealthy, and His announcement wasn't to rulers.  Smelly dirty shepherds sleeping in fields got the announcement and came to visit.

We romanticize this story because we don't like talking about how dirty it is.  Silent night, holy night probably wasn't very quiet in the stable.  Anyone who has seen labor and birth knows nothing was calm and nothing was quiet.  Anyone who has ever had an emergency while traveling and far from home knows they don't sleep in heavenly peace.  And who gets visited by random strangers right after giving birth?  We pretty this story up a lot when we tell it.

Finally I say this story is rarely explored, and this is part of the scandal as well, because we miss the sentence that peace on earth was declared.  The great evangelical/fundamental cry of the church is that peace with God is made on the cross.  The atoning death of Jesus Christ has ended the seperation between God and Man.  But peace was declared at the birth of Messiah, not simply His death.  Jesus traveled around teaching Good News, the gospel, that God's kingdom was at hand.  The Good News was not the Jesus loved you and died for your sin.  No one in the New Testament heard that message because no one in the New Testament knew Jesus was going to die.  The good news is not that He died, the Good News is that He came.  Emmanuel means God with Us.  We rarely explore the significance of the birth and life of Jesus.  He did more than just die.  He came and lived and that has meaning too.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read and thanks again to the ladies for the invite to blog. 

Merry Christmas

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