I know the title of this BLOG sounds self-promoting, doesn’t it? “Why do I care so much?” It is like putting, “I just work too hard,” on a job application when they ask for weaknesses; but my “too much” is actually real and true…I do care too much…about my dumb Christmas lights.
Last night I turned my Christmas lights on, you know, to bring people Christmas cheer, but also make my neighbors jealous with how festive I am. When I turned them on, some how, the lights surrounding my front door were off. I looked at all the lights, the strands, the plugs, and there is no reason they should be off. I have been obsessing about this all day. Are my neighbors going to laugh at me for my house being a bright shining beacon on a dimly lit street, only to have my front door pitch black?
This cannot be, this cannot stand! How can the glory of God be shown at Christmas if my lights aren’t on and functioning properly? Yes, I know, these are first world problems, but I live in the first world and so do you.
I guess I should ask that question differently, shortening it up a bit to give a better perspective: how can the glory of God be shown at Christmas? It certainty isn’t through the amount of lights on a house, the cost of a present, or the redness of Santa’s suit. Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We have spent the last year in the Sermon on the Mount, looking at Jesus’ words in how to live our lives in the Kingdom of God. I can't believe how I can still come to something that is supposed to be Christ-centered like Christmas (I mean, His NAME is even in the title) and still lose sight of what is important. Jesus reminds us that when we truly understand the blessing of God bestowed upon us, we are the ones who become Salt and Light in the world.
Matthew 5:14 Jesus says, “You are the light of the world…” when referring to His followers. I guess that puts my house not simply a distant second, but out of running for being the light of world. Christmas is supposed to be seen in our actions, attitudes, and worship. So I guess I would ask you the same question I have just asked myself, “why do you care so much?”
What do you care so much about things that really don’t mean that much in light of eternity? What things should we be caring more about? Christmas is a wonderful time for perspective because we see what God cared most about…it wasn’t Santa, reindeer, Christmas lights, egg nog, or the right ugly sweater to get the free appetizer at Red Robin. God cared about His glory. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Because God cared about His glory, He cared about us.
The best questions to ask this Christmas would be, how could I bring glory to God by caring about the right things. Not that Christmas lights or ugly sweaters are bad…it is just that sometimes we care too much.
One of the features of the small towns throughout America is Main Street. Without fail, Main Street in any town, in any state is the home of city hall and a collection of traditional Christian churches. Sure in Santa Maria you have Broadway, but the concept is the same. The center of small town culture is that main store-lined thoroughfare that heads straight through town.
We in the season of advent, the time of expectation when we symbolically wait upon the arrival of the Lord. Main Street will be trimmed and decorated. It will play host to parades and pageants, and each Church along its route will set up a nativity scene. As you are out admiring the bunting of the Christmas holiday, take time to consider the name of each of the churches that line Main Street. In any town you will have churches named Calvary, New Covenant, Bethel, or Salem. For the most part we are satisfied that these names sound sufficiently churchy and never give them another thought. But, a lot can be communicated by a church's name.
Somebody deliberately named a church Calvary. Calvary was both a place of sadness and great triumph for Jesus and for us as His Church. But Calvary (also Golgotha) is translated as, "the place of the skull". (Luke 23:33) What an ugly and awful name. Why on earth would you want to be associated with a hill where executions were committed? Because on a very sad Friday, Jesus our Lord, willingly took the full wrath of God the Father in our place (1 John 4:10). In that light, the "place of the skull" takes on a different meaning, and Calvary becomes a name we should solemnly remember.
Consider why a congregation would name their church Bethel. Bethel is nothing more than a heap of stones in the desert where the Hebrew patriarch Jacob slept one night. That seems kind of random. But, Bethel means "God's Camp". Bethel was the place where God began to draw Jacob's heart toward his future as the father of the nation of Israel. (Gen 28:10-22) A church that would be named Bethel, signifies that they believe that their congregation actually belongs to God and His will is greater than theirs. Bethel is a place where we humble ourselves and pray to God, "Your will be done."
Salem means "peace". In Genesis, Abraham was greeted by the Priest and King of Salem (Gen 14:17-24). A church named Salem, reminds us at Christmas that unto us was born Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that we are a people of peace (Isaiah 9:6).
When a church calls itself New Covenant, we should think of Hebrews 8:8-12. The Lord says he will establish a new covenant with His Church, when He will write His laws on our hearts, we will be His people who will know Him, and He will remember our sins no more. What an opportunity we have to remember God's goodness just by driving down Main Street!
Each one of you who profess Christ as your Lord and Savior is just like those old Main Street churches. Your lives are on display for everyone to see as they go about their busy days. Like those churches you have a name written upon you by which you are known to all who pass by. Is the name written on you a name by which you want to be known? This Christmas season, consider writing the name "Love" over your life. 1 John 4:7-21 tells us that by our love we will be known as the servants of God. Who ever loves has been born of God and knows God.
As Christ's Church, love should be our banner. Advent season provides us a perfect opportunity as we wait upon the Lord, to consider our identity as His Church. Are we harboring hatred in our hearts? Do we love ourselves above others? Do we love others above Him? 1 John 4 asks how we can hate a man whom we have seen, but love a God whom we haven't seen. No, we have been given too much by our Lord to continue harboring hate in our hearts. We have only one option: love.
I hope as you walk down Broadway or Main Street this Christmas season that God will give you opportunities to show that the name written over His Church may read “Element,” but it is translated "Love".
Last Sunday was or church wide Agape dinner. If you missed it, or were here and helping serve, or your bonfire was a little chaotic, we thought it would be nice for you to have what was shared around the fire by the group leaders. We wanted everyone to be able to focus for a few minutes understanding food as gift, friendship as gift, and the meals we share together as gifts.
Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Our God is a giver, He loves to give. When we share meals together we are sharing THAT gift, we are partaking in the goodness of God together. God has always intended meals to bring us together. Most of what follows is found in the book A meal with Jesus (discovering grace, community and mission around the table) by Tim Chester.
Throughout the Old Testament and New
-We are the spiritually poor - we have nothing to offer for our salvation
-We are the spiritually crippled - we are made powerless by sin
-We are the spiritually blind - we are unable to see the truth about Jesus
-We are the spiritually lame - we are unable to come to God on our own
In one sense, throughout the scriptures, creation, redemption, and mission all exist so that Christ's meal with us can take place. We are redeemed to forever eat meals in Christian community and with Christ Himself.
…A meal, a life, a community on mission for Jesus' name…may you live and believe in that.
These are the questions that were asked around your bonfires: