FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.I was thinking this Christmas holiday about what we really communicate to the watching world about the meaning of Christmas. We so easily spew out our criticisms toward the commercial marketplace with all of its politically correct "holiday" decorations. There are lots of lights, a herd of reindeer and an older, slightly overweight man with a long beard dressed in a bright red suit, but you would be hard-pressed to figure out what Christmas is really all about by observing the marketplace.
Think of it this way. What if an alien suddenly showed up during the Christmas holiday? What would he or she or it understand by what is seen?
I agree that the marketplace is filled with misleading hints of what the holiday season is all about. However, I feel the religious marketplace may be communicating poorly as well. They are much closer to the truth than the commercial marketplace, but still I wonder if in our churches we are holding on to several caricatures of our own.
If you were to try to communicate Christianity to an alien with only symbols, what would you use? Most of the symbols during this time of year seem to be a baby in a manger, a cross to identify something as Christian and possibly clouds that signify Christmas has something to do with the heavenlies. Just tonight at a local Christmas Eve service, they used two prominent images-the cross and the manger-as their theme.
However meaningful these symbols may be, there are a few possible problems. First, these symbols-manger, cross and clouds-tend to localize Jesus for us. If we focus our worship and adoration on the manger, we tend to leave Jesus right there. But Jesus grew up, because he was on a mission.
Second, these symbols tend to limit Jesus. If we are able to keep Him in the manger or on a cross or even in the clouds, we leave Him there as a precious baby, a dying savior on a cross or a mystical expression that is difficult to identify with. Therefore we limit Jesus to one of these images and roles.
Third, to focus on these symbols leaves you alone to your own thinking. The clarity of the awesomeness of Jesus is lost or left behind. Don't leave Jesus behind in the manger. Don't leave Jesus behind on the cross. And, don't leave Jesus behind in the clouds.
A man in the state of Washington became so frustrated with it all that he hung Santa on a cross. Now, that's really mixing your metaphors!
To leave Jesus behind in these or other images is to worship an impersonal God. And if He is impersonal, then we are left to worship Jesus through our religious traditions and commandments of men, through the lens of religiosity and churchianity. We miss the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus, personally.
This Christmas make it your purpose to focus on Jesus, the person of Jesus. He wants to be your friend. He wants to live among us as we gather together. He wants to walk with you. He loves you and accepts you and all He is asking is that you follow Him. What makes this most amazing is that God was pleased that the entire fullness of God was made to dwell in Him. In Jesus was the full presence of God-Immanuel, which means God with us! He came that we might find that fullness of life in Him.
There are 3 most vital things about Jesus that you can hang on to as you end this year and begin the next: I. The Character of Jesus is impeccable. No one disagrees with this. He lived His life walking the walk and walking the talk.
II. Following the teachings and principles of Jesus will bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. There is no self-help seminar, no motivational book or life-coaching workshop that is produced without His teachings.
III. Following Jesus will lead you to a personal relationship with God. If God were ever to take on human flesh and walk this earth, He would be like Jesus.
To sum it all up: Do everything you can do to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus, because all the fullness of God dwells in Him.