Monday, December 24, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS


In 1980 Ruel Lemmons wrote the following article in the Firm Foundation. It is one of the best articles on the meaning of Christmas I have ever read. Enjoy:

"We are again at that time on the calendar when the western world pauses to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was born in the world. The date makes little difference. We heartily agree that some other time of year suits the occasion best, but that makes little actual difference. We also agree that the celebration of a special religious holiday has no foundation in scripture, and that it had its sources in pagan rites and apostate festivals.

Personally, I am glad that the world, bent on carnage and drunk on hedonism takes time out to acknowledge that God sent His Son in to the world. Even atheists, like the stones on the ground, cry out. We deplore the fact that men make merchandise of the occasion – as the moneychangers took advantage of the opportunity in the temple – but even they help the world to stop and take note of God’s gift to man. In a world of war they talk about peace; in a world of hate they talk about love; in a world of sorrow they talk about joy. All the advertising, all the decorations, all the plans for family gatherings call attention to the fact that there is something better in the world than the rat race.

A lot of attention is given in the Bible to the birth of Jesus. The gospels abound in details. The numbering, the birth, the stable, the flight into Egypt – there was a lot of excitement in both heaven and earth when God sent His Son into the world. Without controversy the greatest event in all human history was heralded by the star that shone over Bethlehem. One might argue the merits of the cross as the greatest, but had there been no manger there would have been no cross. With the coming of the Son of God in human flesh a love was born that the world had never before known. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” With all we think we know about love, we can grasp but a very small concept of that love. No wonder the angels sang!

The eloquence of tongue and pen have been exhausted in paying homage to the babe of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee, and the lamb on the cross. Limited as we are in our humanism it is impossible for us to grasp the full significance of what God did in Christ at that time. About the best we can do is acknowledge that if he had not come into the world we would die without hope of heaven. He was the light shining in the dark place. “They that sat in darkness saw a great light.” We can understand the love of a mother for her child. We can even understand the love of a man who might give his life for his country. But it is beyond us to understand the love of a God who would rob heaven to bless earth; empty glory to fill us with glory. It was no natural affection that made God send Jesus into the world. What He did at Bethlehem matured until it became what He did at the cross. It is fitting that we should pause and take note that we didn’t earn it; it was an act of grace.

History is sometimes turned around by the smallest of events, and destiny is balanced on the point of a pin. The almost totally un-noticed event of Bethlehem has affected the world more than all the battles that were ever fought or all the governments that have ever convened. For four thousand years sin-cursed man had hoped for the seed of woman that would bruise the serpent’s head, and the two thousand years the Jews had looked for a Messiah. But when he came they didn’t recognize him. He came in the seclusion of a stable, in the darkness of night, and in the guise of a man. The greatest forces of all time do not come with powerful explosions or the noise of racing chariots; they come on silent wings. The power of love is such a force. And grace and goodness make little racket.

In a night without light, came the Light. In a world without hope, hope was born. In the midst of despair, there was the singing of angels. They had but a star, but we have the Light of life. The hopes and fears of all the years were pinned, whether the shepherds realized it or not, upon a little baby in a young mother’s arms. That is where hope still lies. Wise men brought him gifts. But their gold, frankincense, and myrrh have long since turned to dust. It was the best they had, and they set precedent for our giving gifts, but they gave only gifts that perish. We have an opportunity to give a living sacrifice. If giving is the test of loving, then let us give the consecration of our lives. He himself has said, “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man would lay down his life for his friends.” After all, it isn’t the gaudy tinsel in which the gift is wrapped, nor is it the extravagant price paid for it, it is the heart that is given with the gift that really makes the gift worth receiving."

2 comments:

Kerrie said...

More and more I'm made so aware of this awesome gift given to us through the birth and resurection of Jesus. It still continues to overwhelm me. I related personally to Mary Magdalene in Will's lesson on Sunday. I found myself very emotional (imagine that), as Will described the indebtedness Mary Magdalene felt toward her Jesus and the emotions she experienced as she dealt with the empty tomb and then realization that her savior was alive again. I find myself so desperately in love with the Lord and wanting to serve him with my whole life. Most times that involves sacrificing of myself in many ways that are not comfortable or easy and it us usually painful. To truly be transparent and lay yourself out there for the world to see the light of Jesus in you takes courage and faith. Fears about what people will think have to be put aside as we look for the greater good that comes from letting Jesus live in us, be seen in us, and speak through us. For me that has been laying aside an "image" that at an earlier age I would not have wanted to part with. I've found that former "image" of me that I clung to for so long does nothing to help me relate to others in need of the Lord.

I want to be passionate in sharing my life and the hope of Jesus minus all the pretenses and masks. I believe that when "we" step out of the way, then he can get to work.

I suppose as I'm writing this I'm recommiting myself for this new year to submiting my will to His, and moving out of the way so His light can shine and His grace can be experienced as He offers hope to the world.

Charles North said...

Those were some good thoughts about Mary. Will did a good job. I love the thought of Jesus' resurrection giving us a new spirit to enjoy today. Merry Christmas!