“As many as have received Him, to them he gave power to become the children of God.” – John 1:12
This is one of those posts where I simply want to tell the story – but if I’m not careful I’m going to come across as if I’m bragging about my wonderful wife, Rebekah. Well, the story is too good to skip (and Rebekah is too good not to brag about), so I guess we’ll proceed.
Her message from the pulpit Sunday morning considered the question, “Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?”
She set the stage by reading selected passages from Matthew and Luke to put the elements of the Christmas story – and introduce the characters – in chronological order. Mary, the angel, Joseph, the angel again, the shepherds, more angels, the birth, the Magi, King Herod, another angel, and the flight to Egypt.
All the participant in the narrative were looking for something. Israel in general was looking for a warrior messiah who was supposed to raise an army and drive the Romans back into the sea. Herod was looking to stamp out any threat to his power. Joseph and Mary were simply trying to start their life together on the right foot. The shepherds wanted a quiet night, safe and secure. The Magi were looking for a king they could win favor with and secure an alliance via expensive gifts.
Nobody got what they wanted. And that is fortunate for history. Rebekah explored the idea eloquently, poignantly, and with humor.
But then she made a statement that has really been working on my thinking, and my heart. She said that, “at the time Jesus entered the world as a baby, there wasn’t a single group of people anywhere who had a correct idea of what God was like. Humanity everywhere was completely off track. Even God’s chosen people, who had a long history of God’s faithfulness to them…”
God, Rebekah pointed out, got exactly what God wanted for Christmas. “Jesus, the Christ, poured Himself into human flesh in order to provide stories and parables that grabbed the imagination, that twisted perceptions and expectations, and his preaching radically shifted thinking, and brought home to the rejected and confused that they were loved and wanted – that they (that we) were/are of immense value. He brought healing to the broken, he forgave the sin-sick souls and the troubled hearts of everyone. He clothed himself in garments of mortality to help us see righteousness walking dirty roads. He completely did God’s will – no matter what – even to sacrificing himself to free us from all the sin we carry.”
Rebekah concluded with a straightforward invitation to participate in this initiative of grace God has set into motion:
“We may not have received what we wanted; but instead, we received what we needed. On this cusp of a New Year; with the same longing to find a better way in how we live our lives; to connect more sincerely and deeply into knowing more about God in Christ… and knowing God in our hearts, minds, souls and strength…
“That first Christmas, God got what he wanted. He invites us to want it too, and to then do something about it…”
“As many as have received Him, to them he gave power to become the children of God.” – John 1
So receive him now!