Flights of Faith

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Have Faith, Christmas Is Near!

Rudolph, Frosty, Jack Frost, The Grinch, Elves, and Santa Claus.

Angels. Shepherds. The Three Wise men. Mary. Joseph. Baby Jesus.

These are the traditional players in this season of Christmas. I’ve always found one lineup more appealing than the others. I was never a fan of Santa.

But even liking the Christmas story did not make me understand it more. I think the thought most of my life was since we all celebrate our own birthdays then of course we are going to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. And it deserves to be a big party. When looking for meaning in the celebration though, I got a bit lost. We seemed to be thankful for Jesus…but because of what happened later during his ministry and the Easter story.

So, I pondered Christmas for a little bit. What does it mean?

For awhile, I found the meaning in others’ celebration of it. It became the time where everyone was more like us, when the weekly Christians met the holiday Christians and visions of one God and one Body danced through our heads.

It was a time when charity and love of neighbor was the norm, and the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike burned when seeing their fellow man or woman out of luck. As long as the Christmas lights were on, we were game for these Christmas mini-miracles.

Suddenly, December started to seem like too much of a good thing. It started to seem like a window of opportunity instead of a springboard for an amazing flight into the new year. It was characterized by some sort of desperation or a seasonal sigh that “finally, music celebrating Christ will be on the radio. Finally, we might have compassion for fellow humans. And finally, I might feel some rest for my weary soul on this Earth of ours.” Christmas became a seasonal retreat instead of a yearly advance.

This started my Christmas blues. For me, I saw a Christian responsibility to the Cross. The birth of Christ, of course, remained a precious story to me. However, I felt a bit uncomfortable with a baby wrapped in swaddling clothing being called cute when He should be called powerful and almighty. Were we avoiding something when looking at the Nativity?

I think I found my way back to the manger from the Cross. When I read Jesus’ words at the Garden of Gethsemane I actually understood more about Christmas.

34"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," [Jesus] said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." 35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba,[a] Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:34-36)

This private moment of Jesus displays his human vulnerability, yet also testifies to His divine strength and humble submission to have faith in His Father even in the hardest of times. It came down to faith, trust in God’s victory and faithfulness to His amazing promises.

Then, I saw something beautiful. And perhaps, this is the real Christmas miracle: Jesus is called a Savior from birth because God had faith in Jesus’ ability to save us. He had faith that Jesus would take the cup offered to Him and that His death would be a pathway for our life. Prophecy wasn’t meant to simply be a way to advance the Biblical plot. It became a way that people came to know that being mighty to save is part of God’s character. That’s why the people we usually see huddled around the manger were eager to hear and willing to follow.

The Magi had been pursuing the good news of the Savior. Looking at prophecy and looking at the star of Bethlehem just to see this new thing God is doing.
The shepherds are eager to hear good news from angels and are excited to go see what God has told them.

Joseph obeyed an Angel telling him about Mary. And continued to obey the word of the Lord when the calm of the nativity scene swelled into a thrilling escape to Egypt to avoid the megalomania of King Herod.

Mary sings a joyful song to Elizabeth rejoicing over how God has glorified her and how He glorifies those faithful to Him, especially those the world usually writes off.
And Jesus comes to this world. And has the faith to save us all.

The Christmas story is all about faith.

So where do we fit in?

We have to ask ourselves about the new things God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us. Are we taking the time to celebrate them with friends and family as Elizabeth and Mary did? Are we obeying these new messages like Joseph did? Are we chasing God-given inspiration and visions down in the face of opposing rulers and long journeys like the Magi? And are we being encouraged no matter where we’re receiving this good news like the Shepherds who praised God in fields of sheep?

And, to think, this was just about the seed God was planting in the baby Jesus.
We have the whole story at our fingertips. The beginning, the middle, and the end. And all we need is faith in Christ to bring us salvation and to put us on the road we were always meant to be on, to glorify God and to advance Christ’s kingdom on this Earth.

The work of Christmas is the work of faith.

Faith to follow the one who taught us how to live humbly with God and how to boldly love our neighbors.

This lasts much past December, but it is still rooted in the Christmas moment. God’s decision to send down His son and to surround him early on with humans who had faith in God and believed in the possibility of His son’s ministry on this Earth to change the world. It offers all of us a chance for redemption and flourishing through the way of Jesus.

This good news is not seasonal and it will never grow old. We look outside our frosty windows today and we see a world in need. A world that has been crying out for answers and for action. A world that seems to be falling apart. A world that for many is simply in freefall.

Thankfully, the Christmas miracle is real.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
And the Christmas miracle calls us to have Faith and to believe in that power.
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

I’ll close with a poem by Howard Thurman, a 20th century theologian reflecting on the work of Christmas.

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepards are back with their flocks,
Then the work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, to heal the broken,
To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations, to bring peace among brothers, and
To make music in the heart."


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