Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas Story is a Call to Action

This is something I shared with my youth group recently...because not even a Christmas party is an excuse to stop pursuing teens with the clarion call of Christ. 

I found a list of the "must-have" gifts for Christmas for the past 30 years. This is what had to share.

In 1983 everyone had to have a cabbage patch doll. In 1985 we just had to have an $18 Pound Puppy. In 1989 American households scrambled to get a new Game Boy, followed by the 1995 Beanie Baby craze, and the 1996 Tickle Me Elmo frenzy. In the ensuing years American consumers knocked themselves out to buy the following top yearly must-have Christmas gifts: a new iPod (2002), A Wii (2006), a Kindle (2010), the Angry Birds Board Game (2011), the Doc McStuffins doll (2013), and the Frozen Sing Along Elsa Doll (2015).

Not much over the past 30 years has changed. We’ve proven over and over again that we’ll buy lots of garbage in mass quantities. Except for the serious collector, most of us no longer have any of these items, nor do we want them. But, at least for a year, they were must have.

And if any of you have ever been Black Friday shopping, you know that getting a hot items takes planning, some dedication and focus, and maybe the shedding of some blood.

But I wonder where else in our lives we see such focus and dedication.

Casting Crowns has a song where they talk to Bethlehem as a city and asks them if they realize the King of the universe came into their city while they were sleeping.

Have we ever truly considered the kind of sacrifice Jesus made?

Maybe the first Christmas for Jesus was a lot like Christmas vacations for us. It all starts out pretty good. Some days of shopping and some more parties. Then we get to wake up on December 25 and open up gifts. That’s a good day.

Then we have another whole week of family, something we don’t always do well with. Yeah, we love these people, but sometimes 2 weeks with them pushes our sanity to the limit. Hear me clearly, it shouldn’t be like this.

Maybe we’d prefer to get the gifts and then go do whatever we want to do.

What if Jesus’ experience was like that? What if He looked past the scratchy manger, the smelly animals, and the smelly people? What if he enjoyed hearing the angels singing and the shepherds worshipping? Maybe He even enjoyed the wise men coming a few years later with gifts?

But then He endured a trip to Egypt. How fun are long-distance trips by donkey? What if He didn’t like being treated as a child? What if the pressures of being a teenager didn’t sit well with Him? What if He wasn’t interested in carpentry?

I haven’t even gotten to the part of His life where He started telling people He was God and they gave Him grief instead of respect!!!

At any point in time Jesus could has been uncomfortable or offended or sad. At any point Jesus could have decided that the whole earth mission was pointless and went back to Heaven.

But He didn’t. Why? I think John 3:16 provides our answer. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.’

God loves us.

God understands that without Him, we die and live eternity without Him.

God wants us to be with Him. “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” ~2 Peter 3:9b.

Have we ever had a focus like that? Have we ever wanted anything so bad, that we were willing to deal with discomfort and adversity in order to get it? Do we approach Jesus the same way He approached us?

God spoke with shepherds, led wise men on a long journey, made a mom out of a virgin and gave a step-dad the biggest responsibility ever. Why was God willing to intervene in all of these people’s lives? Because He loved a whole lot more people.

Are we willing to bring discomfort to other people? Are we willing to offend them if needed, with the bold claims that God loves us and sin exists in us, and these two are incompatible? Are we willing to embarrass ourselves and be counted in with people who are accused of being weak-minded, fairy-tale following fools?

Do we have the focus to remember the Christmas story during the dreary days of winter, the long weeks with tests and homework, when parents don’t get us and friends reject us? Can we remember that this story is not simply something we read before we open up presents, but an invitation, a call to action? 

 Jesus was willing to stand out for us, are we willing to do the same for Him?

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