A Different Christmas

Christmas Morning, December 25, 2014

It is a different Christmas this year.  For the first time in a long time it is quiet, there is no noise, no cries of “get up”, “what’s to eat?”, “Santa was here!”  It is a joyous day but it is different from past Christmas days.

Maybe your Christmas is very different this year too.  Maybe for the first time you are alone.  Perhaps God has put you in a new family or maybe added some new family members, maybe this is your first Christmas missing someone you dearly loved.  Are you far from home this Christmas or are you home again?  For some, being home is full of joy but not for all, home can be painful when struggle and strife dominate every day.  Your Christmas tree may be piled high with gifts but perhaps there is no tree this year – it is just too hard, there is no money.  Maybe you are one of those who has to be at work this Christmas, you would rather be home but for a variety of reasons you are working, you are a police officer, a fire fighter, in the military, in a hospital, etc.

Everyone has a different view of Christmas and some reject Christmas totally.  I love Christmas.  I love the traditional, American style Christmas I remember as a child, the Christmas I created for my own children and the Christmas I now see my children creating in their homes.  I love making and eating cookies, watching corny Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Christmas decorations.  I love choosing the “perfect” gift, I love watching people unwrap their gifts.  I am so grateful that for me, Christmas is happy but I recognize that is not true for everyone.

Long ago in Bethlehem there was a different Christmas.  Only a few realized it even was Christmas and those few were an unlikely bunch, a handful of shepherds, a young man and his young betrothed.  Sheep herders, half-asleep in a field, on guard against thieves and predators; the outcasts of their day, ignorant, smelly, loners.  The shepherds are filled with terror when an angel appears and makes an astounding announcement and then, a multitude of angels appears and sings praise – what must that have sounded like?!  Oh yeah, that boring, ordinary night became a very different Christmas for those men.  A young man, Joseph and his young betrothed, Mary – now the birth was no surprise, they had had 9 months to think about it, to be gossiped about, to wonder about the conception, to consider their future.  What was different was the place, like most women, Mary probably envisioned herself giving birth in her home town, aided by a local mid-wife and other women that she had known all her life, experienced women who could help and support her during labor and after the birth.  Instead they found themselves in a strange town, alone, surrounded by gaping shepherds – does it get any more different than that?

Jesus, the Sunshine from on High, was born that day – the world was now completely different, it was the first Christmas.

If you do not celebrate or recognize Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, I urge you to reconsider.  The birth of Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies, He came to earth with a single purpose, redemption and reconciliation  – the salvation of mankind.  There are no words I can share that can convince you or persuade you about Jesus, read the Bible for yourself and ask God to give you understanding.

One guarantee about life it that change is constant, maybe your Christmas is the same as always (for good or bad) or maybe it is radically different.  There is one, singular, unchanging constant and eternal truth about Christmas – it is ALL about Jesus and not about me or you, not about culture or tradition; it always was, always is, always will be about Jesus and one day Jesus will return and EVERYONE will know it – oh what a glorious day that will be!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

For it is written, “As I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” Romans 14:11

The Better Choice

I am in seated in a room full of people.  Most of the people in the room really do not want to be there, including me.  Most of us are in this room for the first time so we are a bit uneasy, uncertain of what will happen or what is expected of us.  A man walks to the podium in the front of the room and proceeds to welcome, thank and instruct us on what is expected of us.  One simple instruction he gives is to look at the number we have been assigned as we entered.  He tells us to listen for our number to be called and when and if it is, he asks us to respond out loud so he can hear and then see each person whose number has been called.  Pretty simple right?  How many times do you think he had to repeat that simple, specific instruction?  How many times do you think no one responded when their number was called?  Since this was a pretty average group of adults he repeated this instruction no less than 6 times.  I lost count of how many times he asked individuals for an oral response.  Do you people not listen or did you just decide that his instructions did not apply to you? This experience just reinforced what I already knew, people do not follow instructions!

God expects our obedience and His instructions are simple and specific.  Exodus is full of clear instruction given by God directly to Moses.  Moses was responsible for: delivering God’s instructions to the Israelites and, for making sure that the people followed God’s instructions exactly.  In chapters 39 and 40 of the Book of Exodus the people were crafting the garments for the High Priest, anointing the High Priest, assembling the tabernacle and anointing the tabernacle.  There were many, detailed and exacting requirements and each one needed to be completed in a specified order.  The people obeyed  God’s instructions through Moses EXACTLY.

I cannot help but think how many times I fail at obeying God’s exact instructions.  How often I worship something other than God.  I worship my comfort or reputation, I worship stuff, I worship my ease and comfort.  I am shamed by the times I behave, or talk or think unloving thoughts about others.  Those times I put myself, my wants before the needs of someone God has placed in my path, the times it is easier to turn aside from helping because getting involved in others pain is so messy.

These verses also remind me that God notices obedience, the phrase, “just as the Lord is commanded” is repeated 18 times in 76 verses.  Once or twice would have been enough to make the point but multiple repetitions tell me that God highly values and recognizes every act of obedience.

Obeying God is actually simple, just follow the instructions, but it is not easy.  I am grateful for God’s grace; that He repeats instructions and is patient with me as I learn to hear and follow His voice and only His voice.

Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold,to obey is better than sacrifice,  1 Samuel 15:22

For beauty and for glory…

I wonder how many relationships are destroyed because a couple purchases an item labeled with three words of doom, “Some Assembly Required”?  My husband and I have spent many joyous (NOT) hours assembling various pieces of furniture and somehow, in spite of it, we are still together.  I am sure the folks writing these pamphlets of torment THINK they are clear and easy to understand but I have never met assembly instructions that I could understand the first time.  God’s instructions in the Book of Exodus are very clear and specific.  In Exodus, Chapter 28 Moses is on Mt. Sinai and God gives him detailed instructions for the garments to be worn by the High Priest; he was to wear holy garments for beauty and for glory.

As I looked at the description of each item I was struck by the symbolism in each detail and how the pieces pointed to Jesus whose birth was still centuries away.

The ephod, was made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet material. Two large onyx stones were engraved with the names of the sons of Israel, 12 names, 6 on each stone; the stones were set on the shoulders of the ephod. The ephod was also a sign of authority.  Jesus bore the cross on His shoulders, thinking of us with every step. Jesus is the only just and final authority. The material used for the ephod was the same as the curtains in the tabernacle – you cannot separate Jesus from His church!

A breastpiece of judgment, the same material as the ephod it held 12 different stones, each one engraved with the name of one of the twelve sons of Israel.  Each stone was unique but they were bound together in a common cause and purpose, as the church is to be unified by Christ. The names of the twelve sons of Israel (the twelve tribes) were engraved, cut into the stones. My name is engraved on Jesus’ heart! The ephod and breastpiece were worn over the heart. Jesus heart was stabbed on the cross to make sure He was dead; He was pierced for my transgressions. Jesus Himself lives in the hearts of those who love Him and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. The breastpiece held the Urim and Thummin so the priest would be reminded of God’s judgment continually, Jesus will judge all and He alone is a truly righteous judge who sees the hearts of people.

The Robe was a single, woven garment of blue. Jesus single possession, His one piece robe was given to a gambling Roman soldier. The hem of the priest’s robe was embellished with golden pomegranates and bells. Pomegranates are full of seeds, a fruit to bear much fruit, they separated the bells so they would not clang together but make a sweet sound.  Jesus empowers us to bear fruit and He hears the sweet sound of every prayer.

A golden plate was worn on the priests turban. The plate was engraved with a seal, “Holy to the Lord”. The priest was set apart by God for service – I am a member of the royal priesthood – I am set apart for service! The priests head was covered by a turban, covering the head was a sign of humility and submission.

Linen breeches, undergarments – to cover the nakedness of the priest. My flesh nature, apart from God must be “covered” – Jesus blood covers my flesh, my sin nature!  Integrity may be defined as “who you are when nobody is looking”.  As a follower of Christ, I need to be a person of integrity, my walk needs to match my talk, especially when no one is watching. God cares more about our character, our inner hidden self than our reputation or comfort.

God repeats the purpose of all this – for glory and for beauty. Whose glory and beauty? The priests? Partly, the priest, as a minister to God was the only one who could offer the atonement sacrifice. He served as go-between for the people and God. God wanted His people to see the priestly intermediary as amazing and wonderful and to glorify, praise and worship God for this gift.   Was it necessary? God clearly thought so. I believe He wanted the priest to be reverenced as God’s earthly representative and intercessor. I believe God wanted to people to say, “Look what we have” and be awed by the priests appearance, not proud but humbled by God’s greatness and thoughts of them. The priest was also a minister TO God and I am sure God delighted in gazing down as the priest went through his daily tasks.

How interesting that our great High Priest, Jesus is described as a most ordinary man, nothing remarkable in His appearance…”He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” Isaiah 53:2, 3  Jesus is our great and final High Priest, no other intermediary or intercessor is needed.  Jesus completely and perfectly fulfilled the duties of the High Priest described here in Exodus and He Himself was the perfect sacrifice and offering once for all.  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Epicurus is God!

…take a few moments to read this wonderful post from fellow blogger, Paul. His blog is one to read and follow…

The Lions Den

There are countless sages who have contributed to the deep things of life, and whose works remain in libraries of the world. Philosophy, philo- lover of, and sophia- wisdom, hence lover of wisdom;  it is very easy to be attracted to philosophy. Spiritual souls however, see philosophy as a stepping stone to One greater, One wiser.

Far too many philosophers unfortunately, have reasoned God out from his own creation, as if He is not welcome on His own dirt.  They are a dime a dozen, but apart from God,  we need only look at one, for they are all cut from the same tattered cloth.

In one of the most famous of ‘gotcha’ moments, the disciples of the wise ones state with an artificial certainty:  God does not exist!  By a subtle combination of twisted logic, and with one stroke of the pen,  they cite ‘evil’ as the Goliath that has…

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Got Rules?

What rules do you have in your head for yourself, for others?  You know you have them because you get upset when one of them gets broken!  I know I have a “mental rulebook” – here are a few of my rules:

  • Don’t interrupt me when I am reading, especially if I am deeply involved in the book!
  • Don’t interrupt me when I am watching a movie, especially if I am deeply involved in the movie!
  • Don’t mix patterns, stripes with plaid for example, this is a rule I apply only to myself.  I see other people do this all the time and it looks great on them, I can never make it work for me and I hate those people who can pull it off!
  • Keep to the right when driving, biking, walking in the mall, airport, park or on the sidewalk – just do it!
  • Stop asking your precious toddlers what they want  – period.  They’re the kids, you’re the adult – decide, they don’t have a clue and you sound ridiculous!
  • I don’t lend books.  I bought it cause I want it and you probably won’t return it anyway, don’t ask to borrow it and if I offer it to you just keep it and don’t try to pretend you forgot to return it.
  • Do not leave dirty dishes in my sink – if you use it, wash it.  Yes, wash it by hand since I don’t have a dishwasher.
  • I do not want to sit at the table with a dirty dish in front of me.  Server, clear the table right away please and if you eat at my house I WILL take your dish away as soon as you are done eating.
  • Stop putting toilet paper on the seat in the public restroom – the seat is cleaner than the faucets and door handles and if you are one of these nuts make sure you flush it away when you are done – yuk!

I could go on but you get the idea.  People see Christianity as a religion with lots of rules; this could not be further from the truth.  Christianity is a relationship that follows two simple rules: Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Can you imagine the transformation that would result if we practiced this law of love?

If I truly loved God, I would talk to Him constantly.  I would rush to spend time with Him and spend as much time with Him as possible.  I would start to resemble Him, being forgiving, gracious and merciful, patient and understanding.  I would want to give Him a gift, a gift He really wanted, a gift that would bring Him joy – my heart is what he wants most.

If I could love my neighbor as myself I’d be glad to give all my books away.  Interruptions would be seen as divine appointments.  Your litter and dirty dishes would just be a way I could serve you as I would like to be served.  If I could love my neighbor as myself, I would see you as God sees you.  God sees you as so precious, so worthy, so important that Jesus died for you.  God understands your pain, your sin, your uniqueness, He knows what makes you happy, He knows what you need,  He loves you  – I need to love you the same way.  God also holds us accountable for our actions, He does not protect us or prevent us from experiencing the consequences of our decisions – I also need to love you like that.  I can’t be your doormat, enabler or stumbling block so clean up your litter, control your kids and wash your dishes!

I know I have far to go in obedience to these two rules.  So simple but not easy…

P.S.  This post was inspired by a fellow blogger, you can read the inspiration post here:  Me – Who Am I?

What unspoken rule is in your mental rulebook?  I’d like to read it – add it in the comments…