Archive for December, 2007
Away in a manger.
For many of us, that’s where Jesus is. A cute little baby lying in a manger. He’s smiling and cooing and generally looking harmless. He fills us with good feelings, as healthy, beautiful babies do. We never hear a whimper, never a cry. He’s the perfect baby.
Away in a manger.
It’s convenient to leave Jesus there. A harmless baby, making no demands on us. We don’t even have to change His diaper. We can go about our lives without thinking of Him, then return to the stable to find that happy, smiling baby.
Away in a manger.
Part of a nativity scene to be pulled out once a year. Almost lost among the sheep and cattle and shepherds and wise men and angels. A tiny piece in a larger set, all wrapped up in tissue paper and stored away at season’s end. Placed in a box next to Santa and his elves, right under the Christmas lights and tree decorations.
Away in a manger.
Away from me. Away from the real world. Tucked away, stored away. That tiny baby is part of another time, another reality. A figure from history, maybe, or maybe just a part of a legend that men have passed on for hundreds of years. Either way, that tiny baby just doesn’t seem to fit in the harsh realities of the twenty-first century.
Away in a manger.
If that’s your view of Jesus, I want to encourage you to take a look at what the Bible says about Him. His birth is a tiny part of the story of Jesus, so small in fact that it goes unmentioned in two of the four gospels. That manger is overshadowed in the Bible by a cross, dwarfed by the reality of an empty tomb. Jesus didn’t come to earth to be a cute baby. He came to give His life on a cross. His whole life centered around that. Having given His life, He was placed in a tomb, laid on a stone slab not unlike the stone manger where He was first placed. But, just as He left that manger years before, He left the tomb behind as well, coming forth as the conquering Lord of Lords, defeating death in one mighty act of triumph.
Away in a manger? Hardly. The risen Lord sits at the right hand of God, offering life and victory to all who would follow Him. Now that December 25 has passed, go ahead and pack away that little baby boy. But don’t think that you’ve left the Lord Jesus lying in a manger. He’s left it far behind.
Question: What do you see changing in our views about Jesus when we realize that He is much more than a baby?
We all want to be part of real community: a place where we are loved, accepted, and taken care of in times of stress and struggle. We live in a world where it is increasingly difficult to find this kind of community. Our physical families are sometimes split and often are scattered across a wide geographic area. We barely know the people where we work. We rarely know our neighbors. However, I saw community in action the other day.
I went to a funeral. As a minister, that is not unusual. In fact, I conduct more funerals than many people attend. But this funeral was different. A couple had lost their thirty-two year old, single son to a hit and run accident. The parents arranged the funeral and five men conducted it. None of them were preachers, though they all went to church together. Three of the men were part of their fellowship group at church. One of the men was an elder of the church they all attend. The other man was in an accountability group/recovery group with the Dad.
The service was not very polished. It was not very professional. It was different than most. But it was real community; not just words, but in action. These men were brothers. There was a physical family present at the funeral, but I was struck by the “real” family. The community that cried, prayed, gave, hurt, hugged, and together sent one of their family home. That was the term they used: home. They didn’t talk about death, or the grave. They talked about seeing their son again and living forever.
Just in that group of men there were ones that had lost children of their own, men who had marriages fail, men who battled addictions, and men facing incurable illness. But what I saw was Jesus. That is the community I want to be a part of…and I am.
So what do you think? Do people really have a sense of belonging? Can we make this work in our world today?
I’ve worked on the Internet for years and I’ve seen technology grow in ways I never thought possible. Who could have predicted the world would become so small? The greatest gift of the Internet is the power to erase separation. I can communicate to a friend across town just as quickly as I can a friend on the other side of the world. The joys of the Internet are not without their faults, with great convenience comes great hassle.
The most annoying byproduct of Internet communication has got to be SPAM e-mail. As if normal junk mail wasn’t bad enough, now we live in the age of junk e-mail. There is nothing more frustrating than having the excitement of receiving a new message, only to then find out the message that has nothing to do with you.
I wonder sometimes if God feels the same way about the messages I send. I think about my prayer life and how often I address the message to Him but seem to only talk about me. Does he feel that same excitement when he hears me start to speak, only to be disappointed when I talk only about myself?
This scripture comes to mind:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 100: 1-2
Too often my prayers lack joy and gladness. I think about the ways that God has helped me in the past and instead of thanking him, I ask for more. There are an infinite number of things that I could thank God for and even though he knows I’m thankful it’s still good to say it is sometimes.
I encourage you to examine your own prayers and see if there are some ways you could bring the focus back to God. If you have any questions about prayer please drop me a note at email@example.com.
I remember the football game I wanted so badly. At a time when computers were unknown in homes, it was “computerized.” My favorite football player appeared on the box, assuring me that it was so realistic that pros could train with it. I knew the game would be wonderful.
I dreamed about that football game, of the fun I would have playing it. I imagined myself passing wonderful hours with this realistic simulation. Finally, after months of longing and pleading, I got the game I wanted. Excitedly I took it out of the box and discovered that I’d been misled. There was nothing computerized about this game, except in the loosest sense of the word. There were two moving sticks with a light attached to them; the light would illuminate different numbers according to how the sticks were moved. That was the extent of the “computerization” of this “realistic” game. I was left looking at the game thinking, “Is that all there is to it?”
I’d like to say that was the only time in my life that I experienced that feeling, but it wouldn’t be true. In fact, I’ve lived through the same thing time and again. I see something and come to want it, dreaming about it, anticipating the satisfaction I’ll feel when I finally get it. Then I obtain the object of my desire and find myself thinking, “Is that all there is to it?”
If we’re not careful, we go through our whole lives thinking “Is that all there is? Isn’t there anything more?” We hear the promises, the sales pitches, the call of endless temptations: buy this and you’ll be happy; start a relationship with this person and all your dreams will come true; get that dream job and live happily ever after. Then we get home and discover that we’ve just bought two sticks connected to a light. “Is that all there is?”
In the book of Genesis, a man named Jacob describes his life as follows: “[i]The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life[/i]” (Genesis 47:9). 130 years, and Jacob calls them “few and evil.” I can almost hear him say, “Is that all there is to it?”
Only God can meet our deepest needs, only He can satisfy that longing we have. When we receive His gifts, we’ll never say, “Is that all there is?” When He gives us the gift of salvation, when He pours out His grace in our lives, we’ll never be left looking for more. God keeps His promises. His gifts have no equal. No one can satisfy our longings like the living God.