Some of us have found the rituals of purchasing and giving gifts, sending greeting cards and meeting with friends and neighbors at holiday parties, a frantic effort to stay on a tight schedule. Most of this occurs during the four weeks of Advent, but perhaps we are not all that fully prepared for Christmas, after all.
So, what is the point of Christmas? Was it merely something for Jesus, Mary and Joseph to do? Or, is it more complicated and profound?
Well-known Pastor Rick Warren, with a church in California, offers some helpful ideas on how we can re-focus ourselves to the deeper meaning of Christmas. He explains why we should have real gratitude for the birth of Jesus.
Warren says that the first purpose of Christmas is to celebrate. God loves you! Not based on what you do, but based on who he is. Our good works do not buy God's favor. Secondly, God is with us and will never abandon you. You may not feel like he is near, but that just means you are not tuned-in.
Thirdly, God is not against you. He is not out to get you or make you miserable. God loves you. God is with you. God is for you. Therefore, the gift to mankind of Jesus, God's only son, is a priceless gift to YOU.
But, there is more!
There is this thing called "Salvation." Rick Warren believes that most people recognize their need for somebody greater than themselves ---- someone to save them from something they cannot solve on their own. They realize the need for somehow being saved ---- salvation.
Warren believes that God's salvation is three-dimensional:
----- You are saved FROM SOMETHING ---- yourself. Sin is an attitude. It is a pride problem. Sin is saying, "I want to be my own boss, I don't need God." The problem with sin is that it separates us from God. Jesus came to set us free from our sin. So there is something from which we need to be set free. We need to be set free from ourselves. We need a savior!
----- Secondly, Pastor Warren believes Jesus came to save us FOR A PURPOSE. It's in Christ, he says that we find out who we are and what we are living for. But, Warren believes, you will never be completely satisfied with your life until you find out what is the purpose God has for you, and how to bring it to pass. You were not made for mere "success" in some secular sense. You were made for a higher level ---- "significance." Significance comes from knowing God, his purpose for your life, and then for you to fulfill it.
----- Thirdly, Rick Warren reminds us that Jesus came to save us BY HIS GRACE. Grace is when God gives us what we need and not what we deserve. Grace is when God says, "I'm going to take your problem and make it my problem." God came to save us from our hurts, our habits and our hang-ups.
So far, God and Jesus have done all the work. What role do we play at Christmas time, if any? Rick Warren sees a very difficult but important role for us! In a word, he calls it "Reconciliation" ----- when a broken relationship is restored.
Pastor Warren says there are three kinds of "peace" relationships:
----- First, if you are trying to live without God, then you are at war with God and you need a peace treaty. How do you make peace with God? You don't do it by promising to be good. You don't do it by being perfect. You can't be perfect. You don't do it by never sinning. You will sin. You make peace, the Bible says, by faith ----- trust in God's grace.
----- Second, you've got two choices in life. In every circumstance, you can pray or panic. You can worship or worry. If you prayed as much as you worry, you would have a whole lot less to worry about. The peace of God is in your heart when you've made peace with God.
----- Third, God has given us both a ministry and a message. It's about reconciliation; to help other people find peace with God and peace with each other.
With whom do you need to rebuild a broken relationship this Christmas? Just remember that you will need to let Jesus Christ fill you with his love so you can love other people the way he does. And, you will need to let him fill you with his forgiveness. Until you let God in, and feel truly forgiven, you don't have the ability to forgive others.
So, we have a range of gifts to acknowledge this Christmas. There could be new golf clubs, a wide-screen TV or something even more grand. At the same time we can count on an invaluable gift from God, as evidenced by the birth of Jesus, two thousand years ago. But, one of the most precious gifts we can give might simply be the gift of forgiveness to someone who caused us pain in the year that is now behind us, just as God's grace has already forgiven us of our repeated sinning.
These thoughts are brought to you by CPC's Adult Spiritual Development Team, hoping to encourage you to pursue some personal spiritual growth this year at CPC.