Archive for December, 2008

Why Jesus was Born on Christmas Day

It=s easy to forget that the person whose birth date we celebrate December 25, 2008, came for a purpose.  And while I may be saying things that have been said before, I would be remiss if I didn’t recall the reason why this child whom they named Jesus appeared on the scene some 2,000 years ago.

The answer is simple.  It was for guys like me.

You see, I am one of the people this child, when he grew up and became a man, said he came to seek out and save.  AIt is not the healthy who need a doctor,@ Jesus said, Abut the sick.@

An accurate description for a man who despaired of life and had no hope of it ever getting better.  A man who knew he needed God but rejected Christianity and wanted nothing to do with this purported >son= of God.

Yet, for reasons perhaps I=ll never know, I was wanted by him, and somehow, by means even more mysterious, he was able to persuade me that his ways were better than mine, and that what I really needed was a relationship with him.

It was a relief I must say, to realize there was help for this illness I suffered, this disease of the heart.  The cure was this Christ I had resisted.  But now I welcomed him.

What would compel a man who was said to be the savior of the world to come for a person like me? 

He came because he was compelled by love. 

It was because God loved the world that he sent his son.  Christ so loved God that he came.  Both knew that my deepest need was love.

What an amazing love it is.  Why else would one by whom and for whom the heavens were made and the earth sent spinning in space condescend to such a low estate?

Why would he who was eternal and immortal confine himself to a body that grew hungry and thirsty and felt pain and sorrow and joy?

 Why would such royalty stoop to hay and rubble and the smell of animals at the time of his birth? 

Why else would this all-powerful being live in relative obscurity for thirty years, knowing who he was and what he came to do, yet keeping it secret until the time came for him to be revealed.

Why else would this one who could call down legions of angels in his defense allow wicked men to beat him and nail his tattered body to a tree?

Why else would this one of a kind allow himself to be cut off from his Father, from whom he received direction for every word and step? AMy God, why have you forsaken me?@ he cried from the cross.

I tell you that he did it because of love, and he did it for me.

But that=s not all.   Not only was he born on Christmas day to die for sorry souls like Terry Hart, he came to tell us of a new order, a heavenly one.  AThe kingdom of God has arrived,@ he said. AYou must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news!@ (Mk. 1:15, Phillips)

His was a call to people who wanted something better and who recognized their ways to be so far from those of God=s that only a miracle could bridge the distance.  This is what this God in man=s body came to do. 

His was a kingdom Anot of this world,@ the government of which would be his responsibility.  He was called AWonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.@  His kingdom would grow and grow and never come to an end.

All this love, all this purpose, all this power, wrapped up in a tiny babe, whose mother and father gathered >round on a cold winter=s night in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

All this, for a man like me, who could never dream of such riches in a million years.

This is why Jesus came.  This is why I remember the day he was born.


The Change We Really Need

    We kept hearing during the presidential campaign the mantra of change – not a small attraction for those who were fed up with the current state of things, and a common call to youthful idealism.  And now we are getting a glimpse of what that change will be – all three branches of government controlled by the same party, an administration comprised largely of previous and liberal politicians, and an approach to ruling that has a definite socialist bent.

     The change we really need, however, is of a different sort.  It is not political per se, but it will affect one’s views on politics.  It is not financial, although it will put us in the right concerning money.  And it is not ideological, but it will direct our thinking as to how things ought to be.  The real change required to make our lives and our country better is one of the heart, and it is referred to in the Bible as repentance.

     Repentance in the holy writ is really twofold.  In one testament it means to change course, go a different direction, change your behavior.  In the other, written in the Greek language, it denotes  a change of mind, a change of thinking.  And both meanings indicate moving away from one thing, and toward another.

     “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” were among the first words of Jesus the Christ.  Before him, the prophet John the Baptist was saying the same thing.  And Jesus, upon sending out his first missionaries, instructed them to preach the exact message.  All throughout the the Bible, and especially the New Testament, and right to the very end, this message is repeated, both to Christians and the Church, and to those outside the church.

     It is a message we all need to hear once again.

     The apostle Paul, speaking in Athens at the time, told his audience that God was now commanding all men to repent, because he had appointed a day on which they would be judged.  The point being that, regardless of whether we agree or not, there is forthcoming a judgment, whereupon we all shall give account of ourselves to God.  A good reason, I believe, to make sure our heads and our hearts are in the right place.

     But it isn’t just future judgment we should be concerned about – and this is what I am aiming at.  It is our present situation that warrants our attention.  Call it what you may, but the current financial crisis could well be a clarion call to us to make a drastic change – a change as to where we put our trust, whose drum beat we march to, and where our affections lie.

     The change the Bible calls for is one in which we shun our reliance upon ourselves, our elected officials, and the almighty dollar, and direct it instead to the living God – the God who has told us in the Bible how we ought to live, and who says with longing in his heart, “repent or perish.”  It is a change were we leave our worthless idols of money, material goods, and false security, and turn instead to the One to Whom our forefathers went in times of trouble, and Who gave us all these things to begin with.

    Indeed, unless we heed the call to go back to our roots – and I mean our Christian roots, I fear our going forward, that we shall have to learn our lesson the hard way.  And it will be very, very hard.

December 2008