THE PRESENCE OF CHRISTMAS

4 12 2018

Christmas2018-onlineMy heart for every person who lives in Cape May County this December is that all would willingly come to the table and experience fully the power of the Christmas Present of Presence. The promise of God as far back as the Book of Isaiah was that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a child and that the Holy and Anointed One’s name would be Immanuel. God wanted to be with us. He wasn’t afraid to show up and allow us to get close to Him.

It’s funny about human leaders. They like to keep the people at a distance for fear that if you get too close, you will recognize all of their faults and the imperfections that can’t be hidden forever. When Jesus came from Heaven to Earth that first Christmas, His whole ministry began in a manure pile. Jesus had nothing to hide and nothing to prove and everyone who ever had contact with Him knew that He was like no other that they had ever encountered. Jesus came and the closer you got to Him, the more you wanted. The more vulnerable you became, the more you felt not rejected, but finally loved like love should be. This is the story of my own testimony. When I opened my heart to Jesus and recognized that I needed His strength; I got to see more of God’s power. When I recognized that I needed His wisdom; I was finally open to God to discover His guidance. When I recognized that I had sinned over and over again and I needed His forgiveness; I finally knew what mercy and grace were all about. On my own, I was all alone and I ran to God to know His love for me. This is why the celebration of Christ has become a daily exercise of mine. It’s not about a day in December as much as it is about finally finding the music that could provide the appropriate soundtrack of my life. This is why that no matter how hard and ugly life gets, I keep on singing. Nothing has stopped me from singing!

Music is always associated with Christmas. Music goes all the way back to the very first Christmas. Something about discovering the real meaning of Christmas makes the heart sing. Every year I pray that God will show me something new about the Christmas Story. Every year, He never lets me down. This past week I learned that when Jesus was born, there was a custom in Israel at that time that when there was a birth and the birth was safe because in that day, as still is the case in much of the middle East today, births were a really dangerous thing, there would be music if the baby was born and the baby and the mom were safe and if the baby was a boy. You knew that a baby boy had come into the community when you’d pass by and hear music resonating from the home.

When Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem for the census, he was going home. Joseph had lots of family in his home town. When the Bible says that there was no room in the inn, we are not talking the Hilton. No room in the inn meant that Joe’s Family had shut him out because he chose to do the despicable and marry Mary when everyone knew that Mary was carrying a baby that didn’t belong to Joseph. Joseph and Mary were bad news and not welcomed. It is quite ironic that by obeying God, this amazing couple literally were shunned by the religious congregation and abandoned by their own flesh and blood. There would be no earthly musicians available to celebrate the birth of Jesus, because righteous people don’t sing songs of celebration for illegitimate children.

But God had made other arrangements and there was miraculous music provided on that first Christmas! When earth shut down, the Heavens opened up and a host of angels so large that nobody could properly count them provided the symphony for the Savior born for all of us. This Concert wasn’t held for the high and mighty, but for the lowly Shepherds who were available to pay attention to the song that would change history forever. The Shepherds were invited to the Birth of Royalty and they showed up and couldn’t be shut up after seeing and hearing a miraculous melody that this planet could never provide.

I hurt for those who have no song to sing this Season. It’s hard to make great music out of nothingness. What good is the Winter Solstice and the promise of longer days if it just means more hours of pain and despair? There are no 24 Hour “Nothing but Dirges” Radio Stations. Why doesn’t atheism or skepticism or agnosticism or humanism or sarcasm result in more great music and more unforgettable songs to sing? If you remove the soul of Christmas, you also will lose your mind. Imagine hearing songs like the following:  “Joy to The World. We’re All going To Die! And There’s no Hope at All!” Can you imagine singing this one to your Kids on Christmas Eve? “Away in a Manger A Baby Lies There… But You’ll be a Corpse Soon, so Why Should I Care? When You Are Quite Dead Dear, You Won’t Make A Peep. So, Shut Up Your Crying, and Let Mommy Sleep.” Lyrics like this are awful. If you long to remove the Light of the World from your Holiday Festivities, all I can say is, “Be careful what you wish for.” There is not enough meaning to just eat, drink and be selfish. In acknowledging the Birth of Jesus, I’m reminded again of the reality that there is this great God, and I get to praise Him, worship Him, know Him and forever be with Him. If there’s not something bigger than you and I, then God help me! God help us!

Here is my challenge! Between now and Christmas, over the next couple of weeks, I want to invite you to commit yourself to practice the presence of Christmas. Christmas literally means the celebration of Christ! It is magnifying Jesus! Rather than looking for the meaning of life under the tree, fix your gaze intently upon the One who died on the tree for you and me. Every time you think about Jesus in December, celebrate the difference that Jesus has made. When you see a nativity scene, when you hear a Christmas carol or see a Christmas tree or Christmas lights or hear the Christmas story, please stop what you are doing and make a conscience decision to concentrate on Jesus with your whole self. People can pretend all they want, but there is no denying that nobody has ever changed the course of history like Jesus. Even better, if you will open up your heart to Him, Jesus will change your story and make it a never-ending adventure. If you practice the presence of Christmas, I guarantee that your whole being will show it!


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