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It’s easy for us to enter the Christmas season and go on autopilot.  The holiday season is so driven by traditions (which are not a bad thing)…and typically the busy gets busier and the opportunity to worship is lost.  The focus of Emmanuel becomes us.  He is here for us…to walk with us…to give us hope.  Us, me and I.  He can quickly become our means to an end for our comfort and needs.  Don’t get me wrong, all of this is true…but we must resist the temptation to become the center of Christmas.  Emmanuel – GOD with US.  <

O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.  That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears.  Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel.  Shall come to thee O Israel

Allow me to offer a higher view.  The very nature of God is seen in this amazing transcendent act of love.  The unseen has now become visible and we can focus on what had been so hard to see and understand.  All the while knowing – we’ll never really see and understand fully while we inhabit these jars of clay.  For me, the thing that really captures the nature of Emmanuel are two magnificent moments in the scripture that absolutely blow me away…so much so it brings me to my knees every time I dare read them:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  Hebrews 1

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2

He is The Radiant Glory of God!  The Word tells us that heaven will have no light – for the light will be the Lamb of Glory!  Somehow we just dim in comparison.  This Christmas, let’s worship Him for who He is…not for what we get out of it!  Then the priorities will right themselves and you’ll find a dose of worship that really gives you hope!
Come and Worship Christ the newborn KING!

I love the movies of Christmas.  From It’s a Wonderful Life to A Christmas Story to Miracle on 34th Street, the movies tend to warm my heart and rekindle a wonder-like sense that Christmas is something more.  Almost as if there’s something we forget the rest of the year, only to be reminded now.

The culture of this season has become marked by long meetings, long rehearsals, tons of music, office parties, team parties, white elephants and elves on shelves.  And the food comes in waves of homemade fudge, cookies, cake, cheese dip, sausage balls, and all things yum…only to leave a real gift of a perpetual blah and physical yuck.

Then there’s the hunt!  Recently mine has centered on the Amazon (.com) where the forest is thick and the rivers deep with dangerous dollar signs along the journey of giving to those who already have everything.

But don’t get me wrong – the fun factor is high.  When the music comes to life, the parties launch and the kid’s concerts bring a sense of pride and accomplishment…life is good!

Yet, in true honesty – that song from The Grinch: “Where are you Christmas” is the unsung anthem of the season.  More and more I’m hearing a desire, if not desperation to find a way back to a simple season of hope, family and deep abiding faith.

If you’re looking for a path of practical steps, then allow me to share 5 steps to rediscovering the wonder of Christmas:

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

  •  It’s a Choice!  The hardest part of every journey is making the choice.  It’s a hard decision that has broad implications.  For most, it’s easier not to choose and just follow the crowd.  We do it because they do it and it’s what we all do.  Yet the one who stands up and says “I’m tired of living this way and I’m going to do something about it” is ready to make a decision based on a choice.  One thing is true – Jesus made people choose.  If you want to change things…then remember you have a choice.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

  •  Invest Wisely!  Just as you make decisions regarding your financial investments – the investment of your time, energy and passion is exponentially more crucial.  What you do, what you read, what you watch is what you become.  And as you invest your time, ask yourself this valuable question: “what Biblical Kingdom impact or return am I getting for my investment?”  Are you giving or taking, consuming or providing?  Are you giving the gift of kindness and generosity?  What are you modeling for your children or grandchildren?

We spend countless hours investing in our kids’ artistic or athletic prowess only to create the next generation of the spiritually apathetic.  We live in our cars and minivans and invest in the here and now.  Then we’re surprised when the investment yields a bumper crop of marginal fruit in the teenage and college years.

Choose now to invest in the things that money can’t buy and time won’t change.  Then you’ll make waves of eternal significance.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.– Matthew 6:1-4

  •  Do it in secret!  Take the challenge of writing the note, paying the bill, raking the leaves, fixing the stairs…in secret.  Do something that no one else can see and no one else knows.  When you see a need, meet a need.  Don’t wait on someone else to do it.  And then – tell no one.

Why?  Because there is no greater check of our ego and motivation than to do something knowing there is no reward, no hoopla, no applause.  When you try it and test God’s Word – you will find the spark ignited in your spirit will bring a real sense of Christmas warmth like nothing else.  And by the way, let your kids in on the secret.  They’ll transform right before your eyes.

“…As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18

  •  See the unseen!  Christmas is a season that boasts the virtues of things that are not visible.  It’s a time when we wait for Santa to arrive in the night…undetected.  It’s a parental exercise in stealth maneuvers hoping not to get caught.  It’s the ringing bell from The Polar Express as we ask our kids…and ourselves “do you believe”?

And reality is…there’s something to that.  There exists a world beyond what we can see and a deeper truth that tells us that all the trappings of Christmas found in the wrappings and boxes are temporary.  Last year’s Christmas presents are now in the good will pile as we anxiously await this year’s next best thing.

Enjoy the gift, play with the latest electronic…but never let it dethrone the true King.  See the stuff for what it is and keep it in it’s proper place.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” – Psalm 40:3

  •  Worship!  Choose to drink deeply from the cup of thankfulness for the “way out there, beyond all measure, blow me away” kind of love that God has for you.  Worship through reading God’s Word.  Worship on your knees in a secret place…with tears streaming down your face for a baby born a King to make a way for you to find your way home.

When you sing – sing out loud…boldly!  Sing those Christmas carols with a conviction not based on the churchy/traditional/this is what we do kind of thinking.  But instead from a heart that has found a new song.

Then guess what – “many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord”.  In a season when everyone is doing the same old thing…bring a fresh wind of joy to your family, your office, your school and your church.  If we’re going to truly find Christmas – then you be the one to bring it!

So…where are you Christmas?  The journey begins today, as a choice to not accept the shallow shadow of the real Christmas.  Make the decision, invest wisely and do something without being recognized.  Look below the surface for the unseen and worship boldly.  Then and only then you might just find Christmas has found it’s way back home again.

Merry Christmas!

 

This past Sunday as I was headed off the platform, I was stopped by a “saint”. Eighty-four years young, she radiates life and has a spark in her eye. As she looked me square in the eyes and squeezed my hand, she imparted to me a great gift. She’s a widow and not that I know her story…but it has to be one amazing journey. The years have imparted her with a profound joy and gratitude for even the little, overlooked simple things of life. I know full well that the valleys of this life have offered her a reason to look inward and become bitter. I know she’s had her challenges and choices. I can’t help but wonder…if I could just glimpse back 50 years what I would see? I wonder.

For you see, I have been given a great gift. This sojourner from another time distant from mine, has imparted something very special to me. A reminder of sorts…and challenge:  “My life has been full…and Jesus has given me everything I need. And you, Jeff…are a gifted man. Love deeply those He’s given you, embrace this moment and hold it tight. The Lord is with you!”

And as if the Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said “listen carefully…you won’t want to miss this”…I felt the gift deep in my soul. The zeal of her message, the touch of her hand, the warmth in her smile and the joy in her countenance assured me of what I sensed so deeply. This saint walks with God!

And a reminder for me and you: “His name shall be called Immanuel, our God is with us”. May His words find their way, whether through the voice of a saint or the whisper on the wind. He is close…so close!