Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas - A real gift

As the Christmas season is now upon us, I feel compelled to address, in my opinion, a common misconception concerning the life of Jesus Christ. At this time of year we are focused on the early years of Jesus, his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the magi, and other such holiday concepts. At Easter, and most of the rest of the time, we tend to focus on the sacrifice of Jesus, on his death and resurrection. We are attracted to the hope brought by a coming savior, his birth made him like us, his sacrifice made him like God. But the misconception I want to talk about is what came in between.
As Christians we speak so much on the birth and death of Jesus that we forget that what may have been his most important gift to us came somewhere in the middle of his activities. Now I don't want to down the great hope created by his birth, nor do I wish to muddle the great hope brought by his sacrifice. Instead I wish to put a spotlight on the foundations of that hope that occurred between the two points. The birth of Jesus creates hope because it fulfills prophecy, showing the power of God distinctly to the people. It shows a God who is decidedly involved in the day-to-day lives of his people. The sacrifice of Jesus brings thoughts of forgiveness, heaven, and hope for redemption of even our foolish lives. It focuses our thoughts on a graceful God, full of compassion and longing for his children. Both concepts are truly part of God, truly part of our reasons for being Christian. But there is an underlying concept that makes these two important points come to life.
Jesus came preaching a new concept. Well, not really new, but it's a concept we humans seem to have a hard time grasping. God had made it clear to Abraham when he told him, "Wherever you go, there I will go also." Then he also made it clear to Abraham that he was on Abraham's side when he stopped him from killing Isaac, giving instead his own sacrifice to take the place of the child. "I am on your side Abraham, I don't need your sacrifices, I don't want them." How many times throughout the Old Testament does God repeat those words, "I don't want your sacrifices"? God then makes it clear to Moses; "You don't need laws, love me, love each other, things will work out." But we still wouldn't listen, so he reiterates to Samuel; "You don't need a king, I am Israel's king, love me, love each other, things will work out." So after another two thousand years or so, Jesus shows up, tells the people…"Love God, love each other, things will work out." He makes it clear to the Sadducees and the Pharisees "You have created a system of worship based on priests, based on merit, based on laws, but every person has the right to come to God, to be loved, to be equal in His sight." But the Sad's and the Phar's couldn't believe it, didn't want to cause it took away their power…so they killed this man who spoke a new (old) truth. God is for everyone…we are all equal in his sight…we all deserve love…we all are forgiven.
My gift to you this holiday season…just a bit of news…the temple has fallen, the high priest is no more…you…yes you can go to God anytime you want…you are forgiven…you are loved. There is enough of this present to go around…it wont fit under a tree or down a chimney…so give it away…let someone know that God cares…that they are free and forgiven…loved…cherished…and never abandoned.

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