The idea is stunning and magnificent. It’s much more significant than “the mechanic with us” or “the heart surgeon with us” or the “preschool teacher with us.”
Now, you may know a preschool teacher or a mechanic who’s a lot of fun to be around, but — generally speaking — there will come a time when they have to go. Christmas break is often enjoyable because we get to visit friends and family, but all good things must come to an end . . . before they turn sour.
Nerves quickly fray, patience wears, and — after a few days — “the fish starts to stink.”
But this tendency to “conditional fellowship” extends far beyond our earthly relationships.
“God with us” is most enjoyable during Christmas because it’s warm and festive and swaddled in cuteness. It’s desirable when I’m going through a very difficult crisis. It’s beneficial when I need advice.
But “God with us” is a problem when I want to go my own way. It’s troublesome when I don’t want to be confronted, rebuked, corrected, or chastened. Immanuel is inconvenient when I desperately want to be distracted from following Christ.
So, how does one remain stunned by the magnificent reality that God came to live with us?
“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house were tensions and frustrations. What a rouse!
The hurts and offenses from long long ago seemed just under the surface. Things were ready to blow.”
Does this, in some measure, describe your family Christmas each year? Are you concerned about the gathering over the next few days? You are not alone. It isn't just your family. In fact even in the Bible we see family conflict from the first family (Cain murdered his brother Able) right on to the family of Jesus himself. If you study the families of historical heroes in the faith, missionaries and even pastors, you’ll find conflict to one degree or another. Why? We are all sinners. We irritate each other at the very best and “bite, devour and destroy one another” (Galatians 5:15) at worst.
So how do we handle tough family situations during the Holidays when it is supposed to be a time of love, joy and peace? A time to cherish the memories of each other’s company, yet it is filled with strife? Certainly there are an infinite number of situations. This post is not intended as a “cure-all” article nor do we want to minimize your family’s needs by trying to tackle them in a short blog post. However, we want to offer some basic Bible principles and a few practical ideas that may be of help.
For the Christian, Christmas is the grand celebration of the Glory of God coming down to earth. While it is quite natural to focus in on the humble baby in the manger, the grace of God displayed in the Creator humbling Himself to take on human flesh for the sake of a world of sinners like us should overwhelm the manger scene. The irony of the Splendor of Heaven leaving His throne to take on the confines of human flesh drive us to exalt (glorify) the God of all for His amazing grace. That said, the glory of God is one of the most challenging concepts for us mere mortals to comprehend. Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures we see snapshots of God’s glory in relationship to His physical splendor and righteous character. Those glimpses of God compel us trust and obey. Yet in those Old Testament accounts of do’s and don’ts it is easy for us to lose focus on the core character of God.
God is more than just the things He does. However, when we look at the motivations behind what He does, we get a glimpse of His nature, who He really is. The Apostle John lived with Jesus and watched Him build relationships and minister truth to people, and he recorded in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.” In a very real way, the more we understand His love for us, the more we are driven to love Him. That is a foundational truth that can compel us to keep the Great Command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart….” Sharing our hearts is how we build strong relationships. It is super valuable to clearly understand who God is in His core nature. That is a concept that, given our broken mess of a darkened spiritual condition, can only be grappled with by looking at the Light of Life, Jesus of Nazareth.
It is here. 2016 is a fresh start. It provides a clean slate to write your story. Here are some biblical ways of doing so to consider as you begin. Of highest importance is knowing for sure you have a vital real relationship with Jesus Christ through the simple plan of the Gospel. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, we would invite you to contact us to talk in person. In the meantime, click here to help understand more about your relationship with God.
Here are 7 practical ways to begin 2016 in a biblical way.
1. “I love you.” If you love someone, let them know it. Tell them and show them often. You may think they know it, and they might, but it is always nice to say it. I Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can be smart, sacrificial and sound wonderful in our speech, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. Tell your wife, your son or daughter, call your mom and dad. Even in the struggles, an "I love you" sure can't hurt.
2. “I was wrong, forgive me.” One of my professors in college encouraged us to substitute this phrase for “I’m sorry.” In saying, “I was wrong” there is no doubt in the offended and hurt person’s mind that you know you hurt them and desire their forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. We can not be rightly related to God if we have broken and torn relationships with others. Perhaps you need to use this phrase with your teen today. Don't wait for them even if they were wrong too.
3. “Thank you.” In Luke 17 we read about those with leprosy who Jesus healed. He literally changed the rest of their lives. Things were different because of His intervention. Only one returned to say thank you. There certainly have been people who have made a difference in your life. People whose intervention changed things for the better. Do they know you are thankful? What about old friends, parents, your children, their teachers, a coach or former pastor. Make sure they know you are thankful. “Thank you” is never said too late or too much.
4. “I will .” We must say “I will” to God as he speaks to us about things he wants us to do or change, but we also need to say it to others. Jesus showed us in John 13 his willingness to wash his disciple’s feet. He then commanded us to do the same. Look for needs you can meet, and then when you see it, say, “I will.”
5. “I can.” Have you hit some brick wall in your Christian life? Do you feel defeated because of a sinful habit, or lack of prayer. Perhaps there is some difficult trial you and your teen are going through. In either instance, it is easy to say, “I can’t make it.” Paul reminds us that we CAN do all things THROUGH CHRIST who will strengthen us. A great lesson we must learn is that in myself I can’t, but in Him, “I can.”