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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Seasonal Thoughts. . . Christmas and Beyond

By Douglas V. Gibbs
AuthorSpeakerInstructorRadio Host

My wife and I are in Christmas shopping mode year round.  Many of the gifts we will be giving were purchased last Summer.  Every once in a while we will get a gift shortly after the Christmas season of the year prior.  When we travel we like to give our family and friends a small piece of the world we have encountered beyond the rat race of Southern California.

For some, it can be a stressful time of year.  Even for those not caught up in the stress of the Christmas Season, just getting home from work can be a stressful endeavor.  The gridlock of Winchester Road through Temecula, yesterday, was unreal.  I took side roads to avoid it.  Unfortunately, I wasn't the only person with the idea.

Everyone is heading off to the next big sale.  Some people drive more erratic around the Holidays. Drunk drivers get mixed into the mess, and so driving in its own right can make this a very stressful time of year.  In our case here in sunny California, we are also dealing with Christmas rain just to add to the level of difficulty on the roadways.

For many years I was frustrated during the approach of Christmas.  I dislike the less-than-Christian attitude of some people.  I dislike the fact that some of them really don't care about what Christmas is truly all about. They care more about getting the biggest Christmas Tree, decorating their house so that it is the most elaborate on the block, buying the biggest gifts, receiving even bigger and more expensive gifts, partying until they puke . . . but, it is not for me to worry about all of that.

I am also frustrated that there are those who are trying to ruin the season for people with their atheistic activism.  I've never understood how people can be so offended by a god they don't believe exists.

Despite all of that, we must remind ourselves that the whole reason for the season is something much bigger than shopping, traffic jams, or people who try to deconstruct Christmas.

The Christmas Season is not about us giving presents to each other, although that is a large part of the fun of it. Believe me, I appreciate being able to see people giving gifts to each other, even if in some cases the motive behind it may not be honorable. The true meaning of Christmas goes way beyond the commercialization of the Season, and is truly more about our failures through our human nature. How we fall short of the Glory of God.

We are a flawed species. We are unable, on our own power, to earn God's love. We are just not capable of it. We are riddled with sin. But God, in His infinite love for us, overlooks our inability to be righteous enough for Him. He loves us so much that He wanted to give us the opportunity, despite our failures, to still commune with Him - to still have a relationship with Him - and to have the promise of eternity with Him.

God is not expecting us to get our lives straightened out to His level of satisfaction. He is not expecting us to get it right, to improve ourselves through our own power. Ultimately, we are simply not capable of it. But that isn't the point.  As I said earlier, we are a flawed species. We foul up. It is in our nature to sin. And because of our sinful nature, our spirits are unable to commune with God. And when it comes to sin, since God is a just God, the sin must be paid for. A price must be paid for sin so that it may be cleared away. And a payment to God for sin has always been with blood.

In the Old Testament the atonement for sin was the sacrifice of an innocent animal - a lamb, normally. Blood had to be shed to atone for sin. The ultimate lamb, Christ, was offered for all of humanity roughly two thousand years ago. The blood of Christ blankets our sin so that once someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are able to commune with God again. Their spirit is enlivened, hence, the term "born again."

This gift was originally offered to the Israelites, God's chosen people. The first Christians were Jews. But the leadership, members of the Jewish elite, rejected Christ as the Messiah. 

The first Christians, Messianic Jews, were instructed to also provide the message of Christ's sacrifice to the Gentiles (the non-Jew). And from there, Christianity grew.

The Christian faith met many challenges, and it struggled in its infancy. It was met with persecution, false teachings by worshipers of cult religions, and violence against believers.

The real message of Christianity, however, has always remained true, and inspiring.

Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins, and then walked out of the tomb three days later.  That is the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But, what about His birth? Why is that so spectacularly special, and how does it tie in to the Promise of Grace?

Christmas is about the beginning of the life of the Savior. Immanuel, the given name of Christ, means "God With Us." Over seven hundred passages in the Bible refer to the Trinity - or that Jesus Christ is God in the Flesh, while The Father and Holy Spirit (the two other personalities of God) remained in Heaven. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection - of which all but a few have been fulfilled (those few prophecies that haven't been fulfilled yet are largely waiting for the Second Coming before being fulfilled).

He came to us as a child. A baby. He became one of us. He took human form so that He could communicate God's message to humanity. Our spirits are dead in sin, but it is through Christ that our spirits can be reborn.  Enlivened.

Jesus Christ was born a humble birth. He was not born in a palace, with trumpets blaring the announcement of His arrival. He was born in a manger, which is actually a drinking trough for barn animals. No inn had room in Bethlehem to take Him in. Nobody was willing to give a sleeping space to Joseph, and the pregnant Mary.

Mary faced a lot of her own difficulties during the pregnancy. After all, it was a virgin birth. She was pregnant, but not married. The people in her homeland accused her of being unclean. And even Joseph, at one point, was ready to refuse to marry her - to break off their engagement - or at least that was his thinking until an angel visited him and set him straight.

So here was this baby, God in the flesh, yet human, experiencing what being born as a human is all about. I am sure he was capable of knowing all things and bypassing that stage of life if He so desired. I suppose He could have just jumped up out of that manger, if he desired, and he could have began talking to everyone right then and there, taking command of His Kingdom as he deserved.  But, He withheld from that. He allowed Himself the full human experience. He was cold. It was dark. He was lonely. And that is how the Savior of Mankind, the Sacrificial Lamb of humanity, the eventual bearer of all of the world's sin, God in human flesh, came to be with us.

That is what Christmas is about.

Christmas is the celebration of the beginning of the sacrifice that He made, and the gift of Grace He offered.

Christmas is a celebration of a change in history. A change in direction. An opportunity for mankind to leave the ancient ways. To not have to worry about The Law as The Law was presented, and all the rituals that came with it. Christ fulfilled The Law. And He did it for all sinners, and for all sin, and for all people.

Christ was born an innocent baby in a humble environment, and died that horrific death on a cross at Calvary, for everyone. Anyone and everyone has the opportunity for eternity through Him. But, that opportunity must be accepted. To not accept that opportunity, since God is a Just God, comes with a penalty for the rejection of Christ. That is the only unpardonable sin. 

Once Christ is accepted, all other sin is forgiven. That doesn't give a person a license to sin.  The Church is His Bride, and so in turn it is for us to do all that we can do that is pleasing to him.  As in our own worldly relationships, it is for us to strive to do all things that will improve our relationship. Such is the way it is with Christ.

So while you are out there fighting the crowds during Christmas, or trying to recuperate after Christmas from all of the stress of the season, remember that all of those things are not what this time of year is really all about. I mean, the Santa Claus stuff, and the gifts, are a fun part of Christmas, and I enjoy all of that. Having a Christmas Tree, and all of the gift giving, creates joyful memories that I will always treasure. But, in the end, that is not ultimately what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about the birth of Christ. The season is about the opportunity for a flawed species to receive a gift of eternal life with the Creator.

It is about what Isaiah 9:6 foretells:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall
be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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