A CLOSER LOOK AT CHRISTMAS!

5 12 2016

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I truly get a kick out of looking at Nativity Scenes because I don’t think I have ever seen a realistic one yet. Mary is always presented much too put together for a woman who just gave birth! As beautiful as my wife Terri is to me, I saw what she looked like right after our children were born and let’s just say I’m not thinking she would have wanted her picture taken. And Joseph looks like a comatose spectator rather than a young guy whose world has just been turned upside down by the divine assignment of becoming stepfather to the Son of God! In my humble opinion, nobody has nailed Joseph yet! And for being just a newborn, Jesus looks much too content to suddenly be thrust within the context of human flesh! Do you think that this baby never cried? I would say, “Guess again!”  

 For some strange reason, we seem to like to make the Christmas Story look more like a fairy tale than a factual event of history. I don’t think there was anything easy about the Birth of Christ. Not for Mary, nor for Joseph and especially not for Jesus!  This is not a “Once Upon a Time” bedtime fantasy. This is a legal Birth Certificate. The Angel didn’t say, “Behold I tell you a legend,” but “Behold I give you good news!” News points to happenings that actually occurred in history. We aren’t being sold a bunch of fiction but are receiving just the facts. We can be sure that when it comes to Jesus, his story is an important component of history. And the closer look that we dare to take, the more honest connections we are likely to make.

 Mary is suddenly a pregnant teenager and Joseph is a God-fearing man who has just been excommunicated from the local Synagogue in Nazareth ironically for obeying the Lord. Galilee is not the big city. It is more rural Cape May County than it ever would be San Francisco where lovers go wearing flowers in their hair. The old neighborhood gossips would be whispering nasty rumors and sloppy slanderous statements for the rest of Joe and Mary’s natural lives. Nobody would ever believe what really happened, so they tainted two good people with outright lies. You can be certain that anxiety and stress would follow this famous family wherever they attempted to put roots down this side of heaven. Just because God had a plan never meant that the road would be easy!

 Did you know that legally Mary was not required to go to Bethlehem to report in for the Census? If she would have been welcomed in by her family, Joseph would not have had to take her on this perilous journey for anyone, never mind someone who was 9 months pregnant! But because she was literally not safe out of his sight, off they went together to Bethlehem! And when they finally get to the City of David, they soon discover quite quickly that nobody is reaching out with open arms there either. Bethlehem had no Holiday Inns or Red Roof Inns. What the Bible actually says is that there wasn’t one old friend or family member in Joe’s hometown willing to allow the outlaw renegades into their dwelling places. Nobody had room for the very somebody’s God called to guard his greatest gift to mankind. Puts a whole new spin on things doesn’t it? Any friends or family stop reaching out to you because of your faith? You are not alone!

 To add to the crazy cycle of that original Christmas menagerie, you can throw in an insecure tyrannical egomaniac King who wanted to wipe Jesus off the face of the planet and visitors from a faraway land who were more magicians than royalty. You might call them Houdini, David Copperfield and Doug Henning more than “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” As a matter of fact, if Mary and Joseph were legalistic when it came to their faith, they might have objected to these visitors getting near Jesus at all since they practiced the forbidden to the Hebrews art of astrology. But the only barriers to getting to the Lord are more man-made than heaven endorsed. If your church doors are not wide open to others who may be different than you, how are they ever going to come to know Emmanuel? Did you know that loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you condone their behavior? I know too many so called Christians who not only despise sin, but they harbor hatred towards the sinners themselves and that attitude doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, the only noted visitors of Baby Jesus were the pagan magi and the uncouth shepherds. The religious rulers were too busy caught up in their own issues that they didn’t even realize God had come to town. This can’t be the same shame today! Believers are the light to lead those who are lost safely home but how can they shine, if they never venture out into the dark?

Living in a world that is crying out for peace is not something we invented. There are going to be different people crowding into your world this December! Will they see your love or will they push you to the limit?

 If you observe the first Christmas closely, it is not the good people who are in and the bad people who are out. Everyone who comes to God is in only by the grace of Jesus Christ. It is only what Jesus has done for you that can give you standing before God. How about you? Have you come to Jesus, regardless of who you are and what you have done? No matter how disappointed, stressed, different, unsafe or embarrassing, you may have been before, in the light of Jesus, you can be given hope, meaning, faith and a future. If it has been too long since you have come to church, I want to invite you to a place where no perfect people are allowed. I would consider it a privilege to have you at The Lighthouse Church. What is a Lighthouse all about? Its main call is to be looking out for those who are about to be shipwrecked. I want to invite you to the manger, which leads to the cross which lands at an empty tomb! Christmas must be about celebrating Jesus or else we are stuck looking for eggnog and cookies to accomplish what they are not able to pull off! In Bethlehem, The House of Bread, you will find the Bread of Life that was born into a hungry world to satisfy the deepest yearnings of the soul. Please stop looking to the Mall, for only the Manger will do! I’ll meet you there and we will both fill our empty hearts with amazing grace!

 


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