Friday, December 25, 2015

The Message Isn't Christmas - It's Christ

This one comes from Greg Laurie:

Last Christmas the film “Unbroken” was released, which is the story of Louis Zamperini. We had the privilege of having him as a guest at the church where I pastor, as well as at two of our Harvest Crusades. What an amazing life he lived.
In many ways, though, Louis Zamperini seemed to live four or five different lives. There was the life where he ran from the police as a juvenile. He was such a good runner, in fact, that he ended up running in the 1936 Olympics, where he came face-to-face with Adolf Hitler. Then there was the life where he was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during World War II, was stranded at sea for 47 days and was held as a POW for two and a half years, until the end of the war.

Then there was his life after the war. He returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and became an alcoholic. Everywhere he went, people would buy him drinks.
Then his wife, Cynthia, committed her life to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade. She pleaded with him to attend, so he reluctantly went with her one night. He didn’t really like it and vowed never to go back again. But he decided to give it one more try. He had already determined that when Billy Graham began to pray he would slip out.
But there was something Billy Graham said that night that got Zamperini’s attention: “There might be some of you here who have prayed at one point in your life during crisis and have said to God, ‘If you get me out of this, I will serve you.’”
Suddenly, he remembered something he had prayed while he was adrift at sea. He had said, “God, if you get me out of this, I promise I will serve you.” So he committed his life to Christ.
Then Louis Zamperini changed. He told me he was immediately healed of PTSD. He no longer wanted to drink. His life was transformed. And one of the first things he wanted to do was go back to Japan and offer forgiveness to the man who had treated him so badly.

It’s an amazing story, but it should be our story, too. We all have friction in our lives. There are people who have hurt us, people who have wronged us. We may feel justified in our anger. But the Bible tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). This Christmas, we need a lot more forgiveness toward one another, and then we will have peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.

There are so many things that divide us as a nation and that divide us as people. We need to be right with God. And when we are right with God, then we will be right with each other. That is what we need to keep in mind at this particular time of year.
I think in the midst of all the busyness and so-called celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, we can very easily lose God in the midst of it.
In recent years there has been the attempt by some to do away with the phrase “Merry Christmas” and replace it with “Happy Holidays” or something else. Some people have done their best to remove nativity scenes and the mention of Christ. Fortunately, there has been push-back on that. A 2012 Rasmussen poll revealed that 68 percent of Americans prefer the phrase “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.”
It’s ironic that as we are celebrating Christmas, we can lose sight of God. The good news is that God never loses sight of us. He keeps his eyes on us even if we don’t keep our eyes on him. He remembers us even if we forget Him.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers, there was a prayer the priests were to announce over the people: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).
That phrase “the LORD turn his face toward you” means to look to see, and to know and be interested. God is interested in us. He is never busy updating his Facebook page; he is more interested in updating your life. He is more interested in being involved in what you say and what you do.
That is the essential message of Christmas, that God came down.
There is a place for doing our work. And then there is a place for worship and for contemplating the awesomeness of God. In all of this noisiness of Christmas, it is a good thing to simply unplug, and as the psalmist said, “Be still, and know that [he is] God” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV).
The message is not Christmas. The message is Christ. We are not alone. God is with us.


foretastes said...

Beautiful word. Thanks for posting this, Scott. A I wish you and yours a very, Merry and blessed Christmas. And here's to praying that 2016 will be our Home going. Maranatha!

Scott said...

Dave - many thanks brother and God bless. See you soon in New Jerusalem - ill be excited to thank you personally:). Have a great and blessed Christmas season