Tuesday, December 5, 2017

the reason for Christmas

Few people today take notice to others in need. Basically, people in general keep their noticing to themselves.

You would think (especially around the holidays) that we would willingly be more giving to others who are less fortunate. But alas, many Christians today limit their resources to merely reproduce childhood memories and warm enjoyments for their own families in hopes of sharing a "magical" feeling together... a "Christmas experience", if you will.

For self-serving reasons, the focus of Christmas has shifted to a secular, exclusive, and pretentious style of holiday - where celebrating the Lord's birth has become more a time of putting on airs and catering to the pursuit of saving face amongst gift-giving friends, co-workers, and relatives. But what gifts are we really meant to give?

Sure, we each want to be thought of as generous and God-loving folk, especially with those whom we hold familiar company. But as we sip warm cider around our fake and dying trees, and as we check off the "want list" of items that we have overextended ourselves to purchase for one another, where is Jesus actually glorified? Where is God noticed in our lives? Has our reason for Christmas become as fake and superficial as the ornaments with which we celebrate around? Has the holiday become more about "feeding" ourselves rather than worshipping Him?

Remember the encounter the Savior had in Mark 10 when the rich man asked Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded to him, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” Many people live in alignment with God's law. Just like this rich man, they too have faced the Savior and truly consider themselves to be upright citizens and "good" people ready for His kingdom. But when it actually comes down to choosing Christ's way over their own, they find themselves at a difficult crossroad. Read with me the conversations that takes place with our Lord in this scriptural account:

Then the rich man said to Jesus, “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - along with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:20-31)

Whether you believe it or not, the mere fact that you have access to the Internet confirms that you are wealthier than most of the world's population. Furthermore, no matter how difficult the economy may be, I am confident to report that the normal demographic of this blog's readership are living rich, blessed lives equipped with shelter, means of transportation, and food for nourishment. Sure, budgets may be tight, but the majority of us are not thirsting for clean, drinkable water. We are not lacking for basic supplies. We are not suffering from epidemic diseases that threaten the existence of entire communities. Most importantly, we are not living without the presence of the Holy Spirit who is ready and waiting to guide us... waiting for us to intimately know His Word with an obedient heart to follow His healthy call.

Unlike this rich man, many of my readers have stepped up to claim the redeeming grace of Christ. We have publicly proclaimed to leave "self" behind and follow The Good Shepherd wherever He leads. We know that He is indeed the omnipotent God of the universe. Yet, many Christians who proclaim to glorify the Messiah's authority.... well, in our own personal, private lives (both today and maybe more days than we'd like to admit), our hearts may still resemble the heart of this rich man's. For in truth, we are very selfish and cling to worldly wealth and security more than we should.

Tight fisted and unrelenting to share God's love with strangers, we ignore Jesus' way and unwillingly forgo giving to others who we know live in great need. Then on Christmas morn, we joyfully sing to our own, "Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth! Good will toward men!" On New Years day we applaud and toast, "Happy New Year!" All the while, the majority of us know perfectly well that we have made no effort to really love like Jesus by giving to those starving, to those widowed, to those orphaned, to those crippled, and to those who remain lost and/or who will face another year without.

But that is too depressing a subject for this happy season, isn't it? Those are matters only God can really fix anyway... so why go there, right? Rather let's continue to mail out our Christmas newsletters and customized photo cards. Let's focus on a fictional Santa and his elves; on Rudolph and his sleigh; on Frosty and his snow. Rather couple the candy canes and gum drop cookies with stories of the sweet baby Jesus and His miraculous birth while still attempting to "teach" our children (and our children's children) the true reason that surrounds this season.

By January 2nd, our bank accounts will be depleted - not due to sacrifice or following a selfless call to love God with our tithes and offerings, but rather to feed our hungry egos, our ravenous appetites, our need for acceptance, our greediness, and our desire to control. May I ask, is this really the reason for Christmas? Is this the kind of legacy you first wish to represent in your family's holiday traditions? Didn't Christ come to save? To love? To GIVE? And aren't we to follow His example?

What is the reason for Christmas? The reason is to celebrate the arrival of our loving, selfless, holy God. And whom did our wonderful God come to seek out and save? "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10) Furthermore,"religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

As we move forward into this holiday season, I encourage you to consider if your life is being polluted by the world's way of celebrating? Ask yourself, what is your reason for Christmas? Is it to humbly give to those who really, really need grace? Or like the rich man, will your face fall as you read this blog and hear Jesus' call? Will you celebrate His birth by humbly praying for opportunities to advance His kingdom? OR instead, will you choose yourself and overlook the giving of much needed funds in order to acquire more computers, more electronics, more new clothes, more gift cards, more jewelry, more fruit baskets, more toys, more stuff to pile on top of other stuff. Is the status of having Christmas "stuff" circulating amongst your family replacing the more important matter of sharing Christ's eternal love to all the world? Oh, I hope not. I pray not.

Friends, let us live every day pure and faultless in God's eyes while humbly glorifying His Name FIRST with all our heart, soul, mind, strength. All things are indeed possible with God - especially His ability to change our selfish struggle to tithe and give. Think about it. What if we lived the hymn, "Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee?" What if each of us gave all our talents and resources to glorify the Master? What possibilities couldn't be accomplished? Nothing is impossible with Jesus! His love demands to be noticed!

Always remember, we are His hands. We are His feet. We are His ambassadors... His people! If we choose not to share and give His heart to others, then I ask you... who will represent the Savior's love? Who will share Christ this Christmas?

Few people today take notice to others in need. But this year, let's obediently start seeking after those whom Jesus Himself came to save. Let's give... and give like Jesus gives. Let's love... and love like Jesus loves. Let's share the joy of His glory this holiday season and make it our first priority to bring the good news of hope to the heavy hearted, the empty-handed, the broken, the sick, the beaten, the widowed, the orphaned, the decrepit, the searching, the scared, the homeless, the helpless, the desperate, the neglected. To all who are in need and to all who have fallen astray - these are whom Jesus seeks to love and give of Himself. So should we.... So should we.

Sure, Christmas is a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate Christ's birth. But let us never become so selfish to overlook the eternal love His birth represents. Let us never forget to share the resources and blessings He has given each of us - gifts that represent His unending, sacrificial love. Everything we have is His and must be used for His glory. Everything.

Jesus alone is the real reason for Christmas.

Questions to Consider:
Have we, God's people, forgotten to take notice of others in need of Christ's love?
Have we made every effort to celebrate our Redeemer's life by sacrificially giving and ministering His way?
Or have we kept our noticing exclusively to ourselves?
WHO is the reason for your Christmas?

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Happy Holidays!


© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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