Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WHAT IS THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT?


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WHAT IS THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT?

Isa 9:6
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

In his book, The Second Tree from the Corner, E. B. White makes this throbbing observation: “To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”  This Christmas season seems to be even busier than most and the unfinished projects contribute to my difficulty of finding Christmas spirit. The problem seems to be in its definition. I will list a few contributing sources of what we sometimes refer to as the Christmas spirit.

1. IT IS THE SPIRIT OF ANTICIPATION!

           Those who practice a more liturgical form of worship, if they pay attention to it, may be better equipped to understand the spirit of anticipation. The season of Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating. It is waiting plus knowing. The Advent calendar, with its little daily door to be opened, marches confidently toward a known conclusion and not to an uncertain end. It is the spirit of anticipation.

Luke 2:25-26
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

2. IT IS THE SPIRIT OF SURPRIZE!

           Christmas should be full of surprises. It is when the days become long and predictable that we tumble into bed without a feeling of triumph with weariness our only reward. It is the day full of surprises that ends with a deep sigh of satisfaction.

Luke 2:36-38
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

           Simeon was fulfilled in his waiting – but Anna was joyfully surprised! The Christmas Story – the one in the Bible and not the movie on TV – is full of surprise words like “suddenly” and “immediately.” The Christmas spirit is the spirit of surprise.

3. IT IS THE SPIRIT OF WONDER!

Luke 2:8-10
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

           The combination of the Greek words for “sore afraid” is actually “mega phobia.” It is the spirit of wonder and incredulity. It is Mary asking the angel “how can this thing be?” It is the speechless shepherds wide-eyed and doubtful of their own senses.

4. IT IS THE SPIRIT OF FAITH!

Heb 11:1
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

           Substance and evidence! These fill the heart of the one full of unverified hope and unexplained joy. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a product of the holy written word. We need an apt benediction both for those with the Christmas spirit and for we who still seek it today.

Rom 15:13
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Dear Lord, fill us all with that joy and peace in believing today. Fill us with wonder. Surprise us with your presence. AMEN

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A BLANKET OF STARS?


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A BLANKET OF STARS?

Ps 8:3-6
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

           I am blessed to be a Texan and I mention that to remind you that Texas has more visible stars than other states filled with tall buildings that clutter the sky. The lights of the boulevards often make it impossible to see the glory of the heavens. No such competition hampered the heavenly view of the psalmist. With the sheep at his feet (see verse 7) and the blanket of stars overhead, David began to consider God. Above the immensity of the heavens, David imagined God looking down upon man.

           Nothing makes a man feel so small as the enormity of the starlit heavens! The most hardened doubter begins to consider that maybe there really is a God and if there is a God then what is my duty toward Him? These thoughts make one feel smaller still. Why does this God care for and provide for such a small speck as man?

           David used two wonderful words to describe God’s care for man. The first is the word “mindful” in verse four. This word is the Hebrew zakar and it means “to mark so as to be recognized.” Imagine God looking down and wanting to isolate you from all the rest of creation. He places a mark upon you. With this mark He can track your whereabouts and observe your circumstance. But this is more than a tracking device. It is a mark of possession and ownership.

           The second word is also in verse four and it is the word “visit.” Here David specifically alludes to God coming down to be with man. This is the wonder of Christmas! God came down but not just down. God came down to lowest man. He was born in the most humble circumstances so that he could meet man eye to eye. Such condescension is too full of wonder for expression. So John 3:16 describes the love of God with the tiny word “so.”

           If you are feeling abandoned by God slip on a jacket and go out under the night sky. Look up at the wonder of the work of His fingers and understand that God has placed a mark upon you. God has not lost you in the crowd. He knows who you are and what is happening in your life. He came down to visit you in your humanity so that he might lift you up to sit in heavenly places. (see Ephesians 2:6,7)

Wondrous God, I am overwhelmed and encouraged that you think on me. I know that you will never lose sight of me or forget my needs. I know that you are rich enough to pay all my debts and strong enough to defeat all my enemies. I know that I am loved – but I do not know why. Thank you, Marvelous Lord. AMEN

Monday, December 10, 2018

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!


Monday, December 10, 2018

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

Matt 5:13-16
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

           Every year, at about this time, I begin to think about my favorite hero, George Bailey. You remember George. His family ran the Bailey Building and Loan. They made it possible for the average man to live in a small but comfortable cottage in Bedford Falls.

           George had a boatload of unfulfilled ambition. He wanted to travel and see the world but he became shackled to the building and loan when his father died. George began to gather supplies for one huge pity party that came to a climax when he jumped off the river bridge in the midst of a snow storm. That’s a chilling thought! Even more curious was Clarence, the bungling, wingless angel second class. It was his assignment to show George just how his influence had made a difference in the lives of so many. He said: “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

           Each year, because of Clarence and George, I take inventory of my influence. I try to do it honestly but humbly. It refreshes me to know that often what I think are simple things have the most profound impact. A kind word costs nothing but to the hurting it is a great treasure.

           I also take inventory of those precious people who have made a great difference in my life. The list is long and written in gold. I am most thankful to the man who first visited me and convinced me to ride a rattling church bus to Sunday school. It was my introduction to Christ. I’ve never been the same. 

           Today you will be met by those who may change your life forever. Watch for them for they are everywhere. You will also have an opportunity to influence others either for good or for ill. As a believer you are salt. You get to decide whether or not you are salty. Go! Be salt and light to a tasteless and dark world.

Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful people that have made such a huge difference in my life. AMEN