|Our first Christmas celebration|
Last week was the week of JOY in the Advent calendar, and these final days before Christmas are the week of Love. How fitting, since it is God's great love for us that prompted Him to send His Son. Normally I try to post shorter pieces, but since I know I will not be able to get back to my computer for a couple days, I'm going to give you three readings in one, for you to read at your leisure. Have a blessed and delightful Christmas. You are loved!
#1: Love GivesLove gives. It can’t help it. The gift may not be a birthday present or a package under the tree, but where there is love, there’s giving involved. It may be time, or service, or touch, or words of praise and encouragement. These things can be given by the poorest lover. Those who love always find a way to give to the object of their affection.
We assume the Wise Men were kings or wealthy astrologers because of the gifts they gave. But what if they weren’t? What if they spent every penny they had, risked their reputations, and left everything behind out of love for the King of Heaven? They traveled from the Orient to the Holy Land to find Jesus. Theologians estimate it took them three years. Even if they were wealthy to start with, food and travel accommodations along the way cost them dearly.
Yet, they couldn’t help it. The promised King of all men was going to be born in their lifetime, and they didn’t want to miss it! They wouldn’t arrive empty handed either. Would we do the same? How much do we love Jesus? How much are we willing to give to Him and to others in His name?
#2: Don’t Forget Jesus!By now your home is probably decorated for Christmas, with lights, candles, a tree, and nativity sets of all sizes. Imagine what would happen if you forgot to put the figure of Jesus in the manger. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and wise men would all gaze adoringly, worshipfully…at an empty space in the crèche!
|Marie's beautifully welcoming porch|
I made a similar mistake a few years ago. The line I was supposed to sing in the Christmas cantata was, “Born to be Messiah; God’s only begotten Son.” However, at dress rehearsal I belted out, “Born to be Messiah; God’s only forgotten Son.” Even though no one seemed to notice, I turned three shades of red. It posed an important question for me to think about. Have I forgotten Jesus this Christmas?
It happens. We get wrapped up in ourselves and forget the best gift of all. A seasonal translation of Jeremiah 2:32 might say, “Do my people forget to buy presents, decorate their homes for Christmas, or eat themselves into oblivion? Yet my people have forgotten me - the reason for Christmas - years without number.”
I began to examine myself to see if Christ had been forgotten in the holiday excitement. I hope these thoughts help you remember to keep Christ in Christmas as well.
Entertainment:Many “Holiday” movies have nothing to do with the reason for the season! They’re either fluffy sentiment or blatantly anti-Christian. I want to seek entertainment that highlights changed lives, sacrificial giving, and hope.
Schedule:We get busy with parties, shopping, church and family events. Meaningful time with the Savior can get squeezed out. Yet without Jesus, Christmas means nothing. Time every day with God is essential.
Decorating:I lit candles and put on soft Christmas music just before my husband got home from work. “It’s beautiful!” he said, “like entering another world.” Then he started counting the number of nativities in the living room. “Hmm, are you trying to make a point?” I laughed. The way we decorate our home tells the world, and us, what we’re truly celebrating.
Shopping:Then there’s shopping. Buying gifts for our growing family can easily take over my mind. It’s tempting to spend months in a shopping frenzy. I have forgotten Jesus at times in all the excitement and planning. It helps to keep asking myself: why am I doing this? And get back to my love for our Savior.
Circumstances:Many of you are experiencing financial discomfort, health problems, or heartbreak. I have had lonely years too, when the idea of Christmas cheer stuck in my throat. But even in immobilizing pain, I realized the message of Jesus is not obliterated by our suffering. It’s enhanced. Jesus came to love us in the midst of our pain, to show us a future where sin, worry, and heartache can never touch us again.
No matter how painful your circumstances may be, they are temporary. Jesus is God’s gift of love who meets our greatest need. He is God’s only begotten Son.
#3: Love That Anticipates NeedsKelly and I went white water rafting a couple years ago and I was once again amazed at the way he expresses his love for me. For the third time that summer, we had planned an outdoor adventure, expecting hot weather. Each time it was cloudy and cool.
My husband knows how easily I get cold and how much I hate it. So, unbeknownst to me, he had packed a warm, heavy sweatshirt in two layers of plastic bags. Then he put it in our waterproof lunch bag in the boat. So when we stopped for lunch and I was wet and miserable, Kelly wrapped me in a thick sweatshirt. I was warmed by his loving anticipation of what I would need and the trouble he went to for my comfort.
|My grandson's first Christmas tree expedition|
First, however, we had to realize how utterly inadequate we are to maintain sinless perfection through rule-keeping. The entire Old Testament proves what a dismal failure mankind is at keeping the Law. No one can live a sinless life, except Jesus Christ himself.
It’s like my body’s inability to stay warm without outside influences. I jokingly tell my husband I’m part reptile, because I immediately take on the temperature of my environment. I crave a spot in the sun to warm my bones.
God has given us a place in His Son. His love anticipated our need and He provided a way for us to get to heaven through Jesus. We didn’t know ahead of time that we would need Him, but God did. At just the right time, as we sat shivering in the misery of our sinfulness, He sent Jesus to show us God’s love and sacrifice His life for us. His free gift of forgiveness warms us like nothing else can. Our relationship with Him on earth prepares us for an even better life with the Lord in heaven.
Before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:3-7, NLT (emphasis mine)You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6, 8, NIV (emphasis mine)
His Protecting Love:Psalm 36:7 - How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 42:8 - By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
Love that Listens:Psalm 66:20 - Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
Love that Gives:
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 3:1: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Love that Sustains:2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 - So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Unconditional Love:Titus 3:3-7 - At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Our Example of Love:
1 John 4:7-12 - Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Jude 1:1-2 - To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
May the hope, peace, joy, and love of God rest on you, fill you, and flow from you this year.