December 25 each year for centuries has been thought by many people to be the birth date of Jesus Christ. Christians think of it as the anniversary of the day when God placed His only son in the midst of humankind, thus attempting to show His love for us by teaching an improved approach to our mortal life.
Of course, some of us have found the rituals of purchasing and giving gifts, sending Christmas cards and meeting with friends and neighbors at holiday parties, a frantic effort to stay on a tight schedule. So, we might have blurred the religious side of Christmas in our minds and hearts.
Well-known Pastor Rick Warren, with a church in California, offers some helpful ideas on how we can recover our focus on the deeper meaning of Christmas. He explains why we need on-going gratitude for the birth of Jesus ——– not just limiting our gratitude to one day of the year.
Pastor Warren says the first purpose of Christmas is to celebrate ! Did you realize that God loves you! Not based on what you do, but based on who God is. Our daily good works do not buy God’s favor. This is so different from the way rewards are given out in the secular world!
Secondly, Warren says, God is with you and will never abandon you. Sometimes you may not feel like He is near, but that means you are not tuned-in. Therefore, the gift to humankind of God’s only son Jesus, was not just a priceless gift to us from God, but a gift to reassure us that God is with us for the long-run..
But, there is more . . . . !
There is something we call Salvation. Rick Warren believes that most people recognize their need for somebody or some thing greater than themselves. This would help them through a problem, or rescue them from a tight spot, but ultimately save them from something they cannot solve on their own. So, Pastor Warren has a three-part concept of what he calls Salvation.
First, you should be saved from something ——- from YOURSELF. We all have a problem with our Pride. It is an unfortunate attitude, and if excessive we must call it sinfulness . We sin by acting out, or saying: “I want to be my own boss —- I don’t need God.” The problem with sin is that it shows we have become separated from God. Jesus came to free us from sin. Is there truly something from which we need to be set free? YES, 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 really are and what we are living for. But, Warren believes we will never be completely satisfied with mere “secular success”. We were not made for “mere success”. We were made for a higher level of significance. Significance that comes from knowing God, His purpose for our lives, and then for US to fulfill it.
Thirdly, Rick Warren reminds us that Jesus came to save us by GOD”S 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 comes to save us from our hurts, our hang-ups and our bad habits, if we will listen.
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, our role is RECONCILIATION —– restoring a broken relationship. Perhaps the process begins with our relationship to God —– but, it does not end there.
Pastor Warren sees three varieties of RECONCILIATION:
— First, if you are trying to live without God, then you are at war with God and you need a peace treaty. How do we make peace with God? You do not do it by just promising to be good. We don’t do it by trying to be perfect. You don’t do it by never sinning. You will sin. You make peace with God, the Bible says, by developing faith—- trust in God’s grace, believing that God’s grace will be accorded to you.
— Second, you have two choices in life. In every circumstance, you can pray or panic. You can worship or worry. If you pray as much as you worry, you will have a whole lot less to worry about. The peace of God happens in your heart when you have made peace with God.
— Third, God has given us both a ministry and a message about Reconciliation —— that we must 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 meaningfully forgive others.
So, we have a range of gifts to acknowledge, but not just at Christmas. There could be some material gifts you did receive or gave at Christmas, like new golf clubs, or special gifts for the children in our lives. At the same time, we should count on a precious gift from God, as evidenced by the birth of Jesus. But, one of the most precious gifts we could 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 for our repeated sinning. We can give this gift any time of the year —— not just at Christmas time!
These thoughts are brought to you by CPC’s Adult Spiritual Development Team, hoping to encourage you to pursue some personal spiritual growth this winter at CPC.