Pastor’s Perspective – December 2018
Over two thousand years ago, God fulfilled a promise to God’s people in the strangest and most blessed of ways. God made His home with us. God sent His only Son into the world in order that the world might know the presence and character of God. God was revealed by the life and sacrifice of His anointed Son; in whom we find our salvation.
Salvation was born on Christmas.
It is a wonderful story and a miraculous occurrence.
Christmas is the time that we first discover the joys of receiving. Embedded in the story is the tale of the magi who gave gifts to the family of the new born king. It is also embedded in our culture in the giving of Christmas presents. For many people the act of receiving is all that we ever learn from Christmas. This is a tragedy, for it is a blessing to have a generous and gracious heart.
Christmas is only truly born in a person when we also learn what it means to give; for it is the transformed heart that allows us to graciously give to God and the people we love. This is the miracle of Christmas that gives evidence to the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, who changes from a miser to a generous giver through the power of divine transformation. It is in giving that Scrooge discovers the meaning of life and love. This is the Spirit of Christmas. It is about giving. It is about love, but fundamentally it is about Jesus. Rightly understood, Christmas is the in-breaking of God into the lives and hearts of humanity. Christmas can change the world, because the heart of God is revealed at Christmastime.
Why though, does God come to us as a baby? What does it say about God and what does it say about us? While this question used to bother me, since I have become a father, it has made more sense to me; for the greatest miracles of my life have been revealed to me through my children. Let me explain, and please allow me to indulge in a bit of positive expressions of personal occurrences (otherwise known as bragging) for my Christmas gift this year was the birth of a granddaughter: Lilliana Elaine Bellavia.
What a blessing. What a joy to be able to hold her in my arms as her loving parents, Scott and Annie, watched over her.
Birth. New life. New hope.
You cannot help but be inspired and awestruck when you witness such a miracle. I cannot wait to watch her grow and discover who she might become, for each baby contains a future, a hope, a blessing. God gives us these blessings in flesh, but each blessing holds a deep responsibility. The baby is not simply a toy to be played with and then binned when you are tired of her. A child is a call to maturity and agape love. When you have a child, you are being called to transformation. Your life is no longer your own. Carefree young men and beautiful young women find that their evenings are now filled with diaper changes and 3 am feedings instead of nights at the theater or dinner parties with friends. Makeup is optional in child raising.
That is alright. It is part of the job. We expect it, for we also remember what it was like to be someone’s child. I remember when I was young, and nothing was expected from me. I remember when I would ask my mother what my social security number was, and she would just rattle off the numbers. I remember when I was injured, and my father would bind up my wounds and get me the medical attention that I needed. I remember when I would take their presence and attention for granted and never consider the effort that was poured into my life. I never understood the sacrifices of parenting until I had someone else look to me for guidance, protection and help. Parenting shaped how I learned to serve.
Which brings us back to Christmas.
Christmas can help us to grow up and mature. It is where we discover that the world can be better when it is not about us. Christmas helps us to move from a childish attitude dominated by receiving into a heart for giving. Giving can help us discover how to become a blessing to another person. The heart of Christmas changes as we grow in our relationship with God. It might begin with the expectation of gifts, but it should also mature into a greater, deeper hope to experience and share the blessings of God.
My greatest Christmas blessings today are found in what you might call the work of “presence.” Presence is simply the chance to be with someone. It is the human response to Immanuel; which means “God with us.” Each Christmas, as the emphasis moved from receiving to giving, I have discovered that I look forward to being with my loved ones. I love the time that I get to spend with my family. The moments of rest and presence when we are just together. Age and change have eliminated my youthful assumptions concerning these times from my daily life. Gone are the days in which I would wake up and go to bed with my family in the house with me. Christmas gives me a few brief moments where I can share time and presence with those who have moved out of the house and away from home. I get another chance to hold and hug (within limits) the grown men who used to be easily rocked in my arms.
Christmas is where we discover that God, like any good parent, gives you things that you would have never asked for yourself. God has a way of giving you the things you need but might not “want.” In our abundant living culture, we are strangers to needs. We typically traffic in our wants, but how would our lives look if we got what we wanted. How would the original Christmas have looked if the primary character received their hearts desire. Would Mary have asked to have a son in the way that God blessed her? Joseph certainly would not have desired this for his life. How about Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were “long in the tooth” to have a new born baby. They certainly would have preferred a child in their youthful days. The Christmas story is filled with surprising evidence of God’s presence even during the tragic and the difficult aspect of life.
What has God “given” to you this Christmas season? It might be an unconventional gift. It might be a hole in your life or a desire for something different. Perhaps you find yourself needing a miracle. Let me suggest that we avoid trying to “make” a Christmas miracle happen. Instead seek the miracle of Christmas: God with us. Ask God to fill your heart and life. Seek to find blessing in the gift of His presence and His love. Be generous and loving in how you give but don’t neglect allowing yourself some joy in the process. Take time to worship. Take time to pray. Take time to be His child.
Do what they did in the biblical story of Christmas. Hold the baby. Bless the parents. Give your gifts. Pay attention to the stars and watch as the heavens and the angels sing of the glory of God. Welcome Jesus into your life and learn to fall in love with the smallest and the least.
Have a Merry Christmas,