DECEMBER 24: Who's it for?
What we would put on wish lists changes over the course of our lives. The first gift I remember wanting was an Intellivision. Then, a few years later, it was a GI Joe Aircraft Carrier (still haven’t gotten that one, Santa). Awhile later, the big thing was Rollerblades, then that first iPod (astoundingly, it held 1000 songs!). Now, what I really want--and will likely get for myself some day, is a 1971 Datsun 240z.
It's hard not making the holidays all about gifts. But when it comes to Christmas, I think it might be. I think what we can celebrate right now is that God has a great, big gift waiting for...someone. Maybe you.
Whatever you believe about Jesus, you can’t help but notice the contrasts around his arrival:
Caesar on one hand, Jesus on the other.
Caesar was the most powerful man in the world, and counting everyone in his empire was a way to prove it. He didn’t know them, they were numbers.
Jesus’ parents were just two of those numbers: A working-class man and his pregnant fiance.
Every Caesar’s birth was announced with: “Good news of great joy for all people. Today is the day Caesar is born, he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Oh! Caesar also loved choirs for his birthday. But nothing compared to what some shepherds encountered that night:
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”*
Caesar Augustus was famous for bringing peace to the nations (mostly by conquering them).
The promise of Jesus adds a twist: peace to individuals. Frankly, world peace would be hard to enjoy without a personal sense of being at-peace.
Of course, if were paying attention you'll notice this gift, this peace, isn't automatic. It's for people who "please God"--a concept that might seem repulsive at first.
As much as we love Santa, it's interesting how much we resist God because we think He operates like the Jolly Elf--Watching, evaluating, putting people on nice or naughty lists, only helping if you're good enough this year.
Oddly, the promise of personal peace to came people who had no hope of earning it. Shepherds weren’t the cool kids. Jesus' biological family weren't the "in crowd". They weren’t the well-behaved kids. This wasn't the nice list.
They were the freaks and geeks. The common man.
Maybe they couldn’t go into the palaces of Caesar, the fancy church buildings or the awards shows...
...but they could walk right into a stable.
In fact, everyone can go to the stable. Everyone.
This is Great News:
GOD’S GIFT IS FOR ANYONE AND EVERYONE.
2000 years ago, God became a human, as a baby, then as a man, then a man who gave His life—All so He could pay for your gift.
He paid for forgiveness and grace. He paid so you could find something worth running for and changing for and talking about.
Maybe the last place you'd thought you'd be at the end of this year was a blog talking about Jesus. Maybe you're hurting, confused, ticked off, desperate.
Maybe you're doing well, the "world is at peace", but you don't have peace.
Maybe you've never opened your gift--the one God paid for already. It has your name on it.
If you have received the gift, this might be the time to share that love with those in your life who need it most this Christmas, maybe invite them to join you in this journey in the new year.
All are welcome. Everyone can come to this place. Everyone is welcome at a stable.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask you to stay
close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all of us in your tender care.
And lead us to Heaven to live with you there.
*Luke's biography of Jesus, chapter 2, verses 13–14