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Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Invasion

"A silent night
Shepherds watch their sheep
A picture of a tiny town asleep
All Heaven stands
The angels spread their wings . . ."

Take some time today to just stop.

Get alone and think the Christmas story from another angle, from another viewpoint if you will. Look at that Silent Night through the eyes of Heaven, and remember what His story really tells us . . .

The Roman empire had grown enough to allow the province of Judea to be ruled by a semi-independent ruler, Herod the Great. Politically, the Jews still fell under Roman rule.

Spiritually, however, the earth had been bound too long by this Silent Night. In fact, the silence was deafening! The fallen Dragon had painted a facade of sway over man and creation. Many lived in despair, and the hope for deliverance was fading.

A few still clung to the prophet Isaiah's writings, and prayed for the Messiah to come. The Scribes and Church leaders kept close tabs on royalty and the lineage of King David, looking for an overthrow of power; a conqueror. This seemed the logical place to look for the Messiah. King Herod himself was even watching . . .

They didn't really know what they were waiting for, and how could they? God always has plans that are bigger than our limited vision or assumption. They were looking for a conqueror over their current physical circumstance. God is more concerned about our eternal spiritual abundance. They were looking for an end to their earthly oppression. He came to bind the broken-hearted. They were looking for a new government. He was interested in freeing them completely.

That Silent Night seemed like any other dark, forsaken night. But there was something Holy coming . . .

Silence. Soft gusts of wind. The movement of the herd in a slow, relaxed churn. Low conversation. A campfire reflected off of a pair of shears. The creak of beams from the nearby holding pen. Stars shining in the Heavens, one noticeably brighter overhead. The shift of armor. A shepherd boy unfolds his evening meal from his leather pouch as the others discuss the day's events. Angels unfold their wings. Drowsy eyelids flutter to stay awake. Heaven stands to attention. As one, the sheep raise their heads, alert. The boy exhales as he thinks of what tomorrow brings. A solitary Angel inhales as the massive choir gathers above the flock . . .

Light! An immense stranger stands among them. Fear! Do not be afraid. Pronouncement! Good News! Singing! Glory to God in the Highest! Great Joy, for ALL people. He is born today!

As a sign, you'll find Him in the most unlikely place . . .

A manger?

Not exactly the planned entrance that Church leadership of the day had predicted.

Not the palace.

No royal midwife.

No proclamation of an heir to an earthly, temporal throne.

Not the obvious . . . but in a manger.

A lowly manger.

A mother's physical pain.

A smelly, lowly home for beasts of burden.

A step-father's feeble attempts to comfort.

A mother's joy!

Shepherd's worship.

A baby's battle cry.

An Invasion.

The facade of dark power begins to crack.

The War had changed. The King was here. In a split second, the tide had turned!

News of a virgin birth caused a deep shudder to go through the Kingdom of Lies.

Light had come, and the Silent Night was gone forever.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2008

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bah Humbug

Tonight, I am doing what I love most ... I'm spending time with the kids. I am forcing myself to take Saturdays off, and it's such a needed thing.

Tara is with Lauren at our high school watching "The Nutcracker", and the rest of us are sitting in the living room watching "A Christmas Carol" (2004). .

Scrooge just said this about the poor ... "Let them die, and decrease the surplus population".

This chilled me. I know people like this; who live this mindset.

I'm reminded of the Cheezit commercial ... "get your own box!" Some of us live this Scrooge mentality. Life is a big "Bah Humbug" and if you are poor and needy, it is your own fault. Get your own money, your own health, your own clothes, your own food, your own drink ... because your problems have nothing to do with ME, as Kelsey Grammer (Scrooge) so masterfully sings in this film.

Sitting here, watching this classic, I'm reminded that God is not pleased with an ungrateful heart. He chooses our heart as His vehicle of choice to deliver His love to mankind. It is no small thing that the image of a heart is a universal symbol of love!

But an ungrateful heart locks the door to this mighty redemptive God and His prevenient grace in our life, and what a horrendous thought this is! Why would anyone want to remove God from their life? Where God is not . . . quickly becomes hellish. Not only do we rob ourselves of His blessings, but we rob souls of His Kingdom.

Each year we enter the Christmas Season repeating those famous words of Tiny Tim, who says "God bless us everyone!"

And God does. Honestly, His prevenient grace works regardless of what we do, but only because of who He is.

In Luke 6, Jesus says “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that."

"And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Those of us who ignore this command run a great risk, as Scrooge does in this Christmas tale. Scripture tells us that many are called, but few are chosen.

We find out what this means when we read Matthew 25. Jesus tells us who will be invited into Heaven. Those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give clothes to those who are without, tend to the sick, and visit those who are in prison.

It's that simple ... and that sobering.

There are no Scrooges in Heaven.

I vote we amend Tiny Tim's speech with this addition:

"God bless us everyone, and have mercy on us! We repent of our ungrateful hearts, and pledge our giving to match our gratitude."

See ... your giving does always match your gratitude. And it has nothing to do with the amount you give. It has everything to do with how you give. Paul's letter to the Corinthians specifically tells us that we can give everything we have, but if it's done without love, then it's useless.

Gratitude tells God and allows others to see that you know your place. You realize that no amount of money, power, or prestige makes you better than the "least of these".

Gratitude makes you choke back the tears as you write a check for a stranger's groceries, for you know how kind and loving God has been to you, even in your sin and wickedness of the past.

Gratitude opens the door to blessing, both in your own life and in the lives of those God brings you in contact with.

So the question presents itself .... are we grateful enough to sacrifice our own personal comfort and prosperity to allow God to use us? God keeps tab of those who do, saying we not only will gain Heaven, but we also build treasure there through our sacrificial giving.

How grateful are you? Do your actions mirror God's blessings, or are you clinging to the pitiful shillings of a "Bah Humbug" life?

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010