Monday, December 23, 2002

Experiencing Christmas

It was a typical elementary school “Winter” pageant. Parents were in the cafeteria with video recorders and cameras, ready to capture the timeless moment for posterity. (We veterans can tell the first time parents by their “this is the most important moment” attitude. I smile and think, “I was never like that.” Well, okay, maybe I was.)

Each class entered the cafeteria with their teacher, sat down cross-legged on the floor and waited for their turn to shine. Long ago the Christmas theme had been replaced by songs of reindeer, snow, the big guy in the red suit, good wishes and holiday greetings. Not much else was expected by those in the audience. It was a surprise, then, when the kindergarten class took the stage to sing, “Christmas Love.” The students were dressed in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters and bright caps. Thirteen of them stood on center stage preparing to hold up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class sang, “C is for Christmas” a child was to hold up the letter C. Then “H is for happy,” and on and on until each child holding his letter would spell out the complete message, “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going according to plan until the small, quiet girl in charge of the M proudly held up her letter upside down, a W. The children in the audience responded like typical 1st through 6th graders, snickering at the little one’s mistake. Fortunately, she, oblivious to the laughing, proudly held up her W. Though the teachers tried to “shush” the children, the giggling continued until the last letter was raised.

Members of the audience, the adults and many of the children, saw it at the same time. A hush rippled over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that moment they understood the reason they were gathered, the reason why they celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the hectic hurry there was a great purpose for the festivities. For when the last letter was raised, the message the class proclaimed loud and clear read:

CHRIST WAS LOVE! He still is, and that is the meaning of Christmas.

Since most would agree, why do we miss it far too often each Christmas season? It is one thing to recognize the truth, it is a far different thing to EXPERIENCE it. We get caught up in “stuff” that causes us to miss the hugeness of the love of Christ. Why? Because we don’t connect with the depth of God’s love represented by December 25th. So how can we? I’m glad you asked.

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by accepting God’s UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE. We live in a world where love and acceptance are contingent on our performance. Do a good job at work and we’re accepted into the “club.” Be a good child and we’re accepted by our parents. Play well and we’re accepted on the team. Even in religion we’re conditioned to believe that if we do the do’s and don’t do the don’ts then God will accept us and love us.

To experience Christmas we must accept God’s acceptance of us just as we are. Jesus did not wait until we were good enough before He came to earth. The prodigal son’s father did not wait until he cleaned up his life to fly down the lane at breakneck speed to engulf his son in embrace. The father only waited until the son turned toward him. However, the unconditional acceptance is not experienced until it is received. Then how the love flows!!!

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by deriving our SIGNIFICANCE from God. We live in a world that convinces us that significance comes through what we accomplish, what we possess, what positions we hold, what power we wield or who we know. That is why the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is so loved. We are created with a need for significance yet feel so insignificant because we are so ordinary. We’ve had dreams, just like George Bailey, that we believed would make us happy, prosperous and noticed. Most of us never realize those dreams and believe our lives haven’t mattered.

Experiencing Christmas comes from deriving our significance in our relationship with God. We matter so much to God that He sent His only Son to forgive us and have a relationship with Him. It’s about the relationship. Period. No matter how much we think we’ve done or failed to do. Receiving our significance through the relationship allows the love to flow!!!

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by gaining our SECURITY from God. Our world has been rocked since February 2000. The stock market has plummeted, the economy has tailspinned, the terrorist attacks filled us with fear, and every year we lose people we cared about. By all natural appearances we should feel insecure. Unless our security comes from Someone beyond this world.

We seek security in our nation, our jobs, our relationships, our money, and so many other things. However true security comes in only one flavor. GOD.

Experiencing Christmas comes from gaining our security in trusting God. God has promised that nothing can touch us in the ways that really matter if we place our whole weight on Him. Even when we cannot see what God is up to. Receiving our security through trust in Him causes the love of God to flow!!!

God created us with the needs for unconditional acceptance, significance and security. We all strive to get those needs met. In many, many ways. In many, many places. Through many, many things. But the only way for them to truly be experienced is in God through Jesus.
The Father sent Jesus that first Christmas to invite us to experience Him and all He provides. That can only be experienced by intentionally receiving Him. Will you accept all that this Christmas? You will not regret it.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." -- Mark 10:15-16

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." -- Jeremiah 31:3

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -- Matthew 6:26-31-34

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