A place for random thoughts from the life of a follower of Jesus.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What is Christmas?

Our small group had opportunity to meet together for a Christmas celebration last week. We were able to enjoy good conversation and food together. I took a few minutes to share some thoughts about Christmas. I share them here as well.

We all have lots of memories and feelings about Christmas, most of them positive. The majority of them revolved around gatherings of family and friends, food, and giving of gifts. While these things can be wonderful in themselves, they are not the true essence of Christmas. So the question is, what is the essence of Christmas?
We saw the beginnings of it a few weeks ago as we looked at John 1. John records that Jesus was the Word, and was and is eternal, is God, and is the life and light of the world.
God wants to be in relationship with each individual, but that relationship is hindered by sin. That means we are distant from God. Christmas means that God took the initiative. John records that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (literally - pitched his tent among us). The Message translates it this way: "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood." God didn't wait for us to become good enough to come to Him. He came to us. That is the significance of Christmas.
A name that weas to be given to Jesus was Emmanuel, which means "God with us." He is with us, in our neighbourhoof, not in some distant ethereal existence. We can truly experience Christmas when we recognize Jesus as God with us and allow Him into our lives to change us from the inside out.
So, Christmas can be made into something superficial, such as chintzy decorations and expensive gifts that we give to people we don't like, or it can be about the truth that God gave the greatest gift, Jesus, so that we could be in relationship with Him. We celebrate Christmas in ways that have meaning, but often the meaning gets lost because we forget, or it's not communicated from one generation to the next. My English teacher in grade 12 (I think) told us about what she did when she cooked a ham: she would cut off the end of the ham and then put it in the pan. Her daughter asked her why she did this, and she said, "Because your grandma always did that." So, they asked the girl's grandma why she cut off the end of the ham before cooking it, and she replied, "Because my mother always did that." So, they then talked to the girl's great-grandmother and asked why she cut off the end of the ham before cooking it. Her reply? "Because the pan was too small."
We often do things because that's the way they've always been done. Why do we give gifts at Christmas? Some do it because they feel obligated. Others like the warm feelings they get from giving gifts. But gift-giving at Christmas stems from the first Giver, who gave His Son. Jesus is the greatest gift. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave...."

Only when you receive the first and greatest Gift can you truly appreciate the significance of Christmas. I trust that is Christmas for you. If not, it can be. You'll experience Christmas as you never had before!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December 3 - Session Ten

While we are not able to meet this week, we can still consider the truths of the Bible together.
John 1:14-18 (The Message)
The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John pointed him out and called, "This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, always had the first word."
We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, this endless knowing and understanding--all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.
For reflection/discussion:
1. What do you feel when you read that Jesus "moved into the neighborhood"?
2. How does John compare Jesus with Moses?
3. What is the significance of Jesus becoming flesh?
4. What is your favourite part of your Christmas celebrations?

To Go:
Take some time to look at the following verses in light of Jesus revealing God to us.
John 14:1-14
Isaiah 9:1-7
Isaiah 40
2 Timothy 1:8-12

Be blessed, and may you experience the joys of a Christmas centred on Jesus!

November 26 - Session Nine

For Here:
Take a look at what John has to say about Jesus coming into the world. The verses are included below. Then consider the questions that follow.
John 1:10-13 (NLT)
He came into the world he created, but the world didn't recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn-not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

For reflection:
1. Why do you think the world didn't recognize Jesus?
2. What do you think John means by saying "become children of God"?
3. What is the difference in the births John is referring to?
4. What is teh best gift you have ever given or received?

To Go:
Take some time this week to read and reflect on the following verses and consider what they say about birth and new birth:
John 3:3-8
1 Peter 1:3-5
1 John 4:7-9
2 Corinthians 5:17

Be blessed!