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A Christ-like Christmas

We’re moving closer to Christmas. Ironically, this is about the time when ads and expectations and schedules pull us further from Christ.

For sure, there is an abundance to this season but not in the commercial way you may be thinking.

Strip away the fussy garland and the must-have linens and the coordinated outfits.

Let’s listen for the call to you and me; inviting us to a more Christ-like Christmas. 

Highlights:

How much of the way we expect to make Christmas meaningful, how much we pursue has more to do with the culture and media have put in front of us than what God has put in front of us

When we seek to make Christmas about Christ in a way that moves us, draws us, reorients us, helps connect us with the truth of who God is and why we worship him in the first place. Do we do so around a liturgy of commercialism or around a truly Christian liturgy?

The commercial liturgy in the U.S. is powerful and embedded in us.

Homework:

How can we reorient our hearts around Christ himself this Christmas?

  • Seek out Christ in the lowly, the lost, the widow, the orphan – seek out those who cannot pay you back this Christmas.
  • Is there step, a little sacrifice you can make so you can experience a Christ-centered Christmas?
  • Invite him into our home through the least and the lost.

If you want to learn more, check out Josh’s latest musing on this topic at, Laying Down the Ideal Christmas (for Something Better)

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

We are a little less than a week away from celebration of Christmas morning, the incarnation, the birth of Jesus. And I want to offer a meditation this week that I hope will help make your Christmas celebration a bit more meaningful. It’s something that I’ve been chewing on for over a year or so. And it’s been really, I think, restorative. And it’s also brought some reform into my own thinking about Christ and his call to us. So let me just juxtapose two things for you. Number one is, most of us we think about Christmas morning or the Christmas season, I think some of the images that come into our mind are much more the commercialized version of Christmas, than they are about what the original Christmas was. And we’ve heard sermons on this, so I’m not going to belabor it. But think about even your living room on Christmas morning, or the living room that you visit, or the dinner parties that you might be invited to. Usually, these are experiences where there’s just a lot, a lot of presence, a lot of people, a lot of food, a lot of drink, it’s it’s access, its surplus, its abundance. There’s something of God in that for sure. You know, when the kingdom comes in its fullness. When the banquet finally comes, the banquet capital be banquet, the Lord throws, as his people become one at last at last. With him, when Heaven and Earth unite, there will be feasting, there will be abundance, there will be overflow forever and ever and ever. And we can participate in a foretaste of that today, as we celebrate special occasions like Christmas morning. So I No way want to bash that idea. But I do want to just hold it up, because it’s worth holding up and examining how much of the way that we expect to make Christmas meaningful. How much of of what we pursue, in seeking to make Christmas meaningful, has more to do with what the the culture and media and advertisers have put in front of us than what God Himself has put in front of us. When we seek to make Christmas, about Christ, in a way that moves us, draws us reorients us helps connect us with the the truth of who God is, and why we worship Him in the first place. Do we do so around a liturgy of commercialism? Or around a truly Christian liturgy? I know in my life, the the the commercial liturgy, in the West in the United States, is so powerful, so strong, so deeply embedded in who I am, that I find it very difficult to shake myself loose of it. I mean, there are ideas and images I’ve got of what Christmas is supposed to be, quote, unquote, supposed to be that just there in me, there’s just in me. And I think underneath that there is a longing for when the kingdom comes a longing for that great banquet, that great wedding feast, that great reunion of the saints. But in the meantime, come this December 24 and 25th and the seasons surrounding that. I think that my mindset My heart is drawn or is is pulled this way. And that by the commercials I see on TV and the advertisements and the old memories I’ve got that seem to draw me. So how can we distill down how can we kind of gut if you will, our ideas, our images, our expectations of Christmas, to make them more oriented around Christ Himself, and less oriented on the commercial liturgy that our culture holds in front of us. And and some of us are immersed in even in our homes, even in our churches. Well, here’s, here’s one way that’s been helpful for me. And this This extends well beyond Christmas, but it’s just helpful. In Matthew 25, Jesus is talking about the end of the age, when the angels will gather the peoples of the earth and they will come stand before Him and He will separate sheep from the goats. Believers true believers from those who have just feigned belief or if not truly believed. And what Jesus describes there is rather this sobering scene. And the part I want to specifically hone in on is, is is this piece where he talks about how we treat the lowly among us, and that when we treat them well, when we visit the prisoner, when we take in the orphan when We feed the hungry when we care for the widow, and I’m extending his metaphor a little bit here. But when we do these things, he says, You, and then the saints who did them say, when did we do that for you? Exactly. And he said, Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it to me. Whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. That is a sobering, strange thing to say. And the converse of that, of course, is what he says to those who are judged as as not true. He said, When you know, you never did these things for me. And then like, when when did we not do those things for you? We of course, we would have done those things for you. He said, No, no, whenever you didn’t do it, for the least of these, you didn’t do it to me. So when you turned someone away, because of their lowly stature, you turn me away. James says in his letter that true and undefiled religion is this, it’s to care for the widow and the orphan. And we have to ask here, so we pull these two verses together? Why these people? Why the prisoner? Why the poor, why the stranger? Why does James significance pull out the widow, the orphan? And I think the answer is because these are people who cannot pay you back. These are people who are overlooked. And when we hold up the liturgy of our commercialised, Christmas, these are the people that get in the way of that, you know, there there is a liturgy, in our, in our cultural Christmas. But there is no place that liturgy for the orphan. There’s no place in that liturgy, for the homeless person, there is no place in that liturgy, for you name it, that the the one who can’t pay you back. There’s only room in that liturgy for those who come with smiles on their face, and really bright smiley smiles too, by the way, who are dressed well, who who lay beautiful food on the table, who bring presence in bags and lay them at your feet. This is some of the commercial liturgy around this time of year. And as I said, it’s deeply embedded in me, and I think many of us, but part of what can get this for us, as we recognize that, that liturgy is absent of a very significant person. On the one hand, it’s absent of those who cannot pay us back. It’s absent of the lowly, the poor, the imprisoned. And because of what Jesus said, It is absent of Christ. So how can we get ourselves how can we pull out expunge the toxin of the the cultural liturgy, the commercialized liturgy in us of what Christmas means? I think one way to do that is to seek out Christ in the lowly, the lost the widow, the orphan, those who cannot pay us back, seek out those who cannot pay you back this Christmas, seek out those who are mysteriously curiously missing. From all the commercial liturgy of our day. Seek out the homeless seek out those who who do not belong in the comfort and warmth of an Old Navy commercial, you will never find them there, or Apple or JC Penney, or any other advertisement, likely you won’t find them in your favorite holiday movies, either. Open up any commercial liturgy and find who’s not there. And then go find that person. Who is the single person who shows up at church and sits by themselves? Who is the widow who lives nearby? Who is the orphan? Who has no place to go? Who is the the socially awkward person who smells a little bit bad? And typically spends Christmas, you know, just with himself or herself? Might we find Jesus there this Christmas? Might we take him? In other words, might we take him at his word, and invite Him into our homes, into our churches this Christmas, that we might experience Him this Christmas, right where he said, We will, when we do it for the least of these, we do it for him. Now, if you’re listening, and there’s part of you going, Oh, Josh, please don’t give me a guilt trip. I don’t, you’re gonna mess up my Christmas, you’re gonna select Christmas. I want to invite you just to open that space in you to Jesus. He’s not asking you to do everything. He’s not asking you to take care of the whole world. But is there someone around you? Is there a step that you can take in that direction? Is there a little sacrifice that you can make for it? Your own sake, friends for your own sake, to experience Jesus this Christmas, I’m going to close with a story. Some of you know that my my family and I, really because of my what my kids wanted to do, we began fostering couple years ago, a few years ago. And along the way, I kept saying, Lord, please, like, I’m open to this, I’m open to this. But if there’s another way, you know, close this door, because I’m not sure that I want to bear the brunt of what this will cost us. Well, before long, we had one baby in our home for a little over a month, and then he went back to be with family, and then we had another baby in our home. And, and I and I share this not as a pat on my back. But as a, what happened for me. I, I made a practice of liturgy, if you will, in my home, as I held this baby, of welcoming Jesus, and looking at this baby, even in the face and saying, Jesus, you are welcome here. And really, as much as I could, letting my body hold this baby, and trust as I did, that I was holding Jesus in my home and making a space for him. Because this baby could not pay us back. And what I found in those moments I can’t fully describe to you. I will tell you this, that it was much less a gift to that child than it was to me. Because whenever we invite Jesus into our home, whenever we step out in faith, and say yes to him, just by the very fact of who he is, he is always pouring out more than we can give him it just it just flows from him. Goodness, life, love flows from Jesus. power flows from him. And so as we invite Him into our home, in the least, and the last, we can trust that we will experience more whether in this life or in the life to come. We will experience more of Jesus than we could when we just seek to invite those that we think will bring us life into our home through the liturgy of commercialism. Jesus, I tremble at these words, because I know they cost each of us something. Yet, Lord, there’s a veil that’s over our eyes, and we fail to see you. Open our eyes. Lord, give us eyes of faith, and give us hearts that burn for you more than our own comforts and pleasures this Christmas. Hold I asked this, because we are truly hungry for something. And we know by now that commercialism does not satisfy that hunger or come into our homes. This Christmas come into my home, my arms, my place this Christmas. I asked this in your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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