Regifted

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Have you ever gotten a really horrible gift? A gift that as soon as you opened up the festive wrapping paper you knew was going to require an immediate trip to the local big box store so that you could exchange what you received for something you actually liked? What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?  I still laugh about my first Christmas at Chelsea’s parents’ house. This is a little bit of a confession, so hang in there, but I felt bad showing up empty handed, but keep in mind I was a broke college student. Luckily, my mom had a Christmas party the night before with all sorts of odds and end door prizes. So, as the party was getting over, I scooped up a handful of these gifts, quickly checking off all the family members who would be there and off I went to wrap them up. On Christmas morning, I waited as they started handing out gifts and when I saw the ones that looked wrapped by an angry one armed person; I knew my time had come. My brother-in-law’s wife was up first—and she was surprised when she found a bar of soap waiting—Her witty response—“What are you trying to say?” Next, was my sister-in-law—she unwrapped the paper and was surprised to find a luminary kit without any candles. Her honest response—“What in the world am I supposed to do with this?” Little did I know, that I started a holiday tradition, a competition of sorts to see who could get the worst gift for the other person—the next year I got my favorite candy bar in a box—a Pay Day, only problem—it was just a wrapper. Then, it was my turn, I got a bunch of Arby’s coupons—they were running a special—with a .01 cent coupon, and better yet, I found a handful of one cent coupons that were expired and gave those. Needless to say, there are some gifts that seem destined for the return pile.

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 And according to Consumer Reports—20% of all gifts are lousy. What do we do with them?  39% of us store unwanted gifts out of sight and try to forget about them. 15% of us re-gift them to unsuspecting family members or friends. 11% of us return unwanted gifts to a retailer for a refund– or, get this – toss the gift in the trash! 6% percent of us try to resell the gift. But it gets worst. Why 2% of us actually confront the original giver, demanding a new gift, while another 2% of us retaliate with ridicule posting photos of our lousy gift on the Internet![20 Percent Of Adults Get Stuck With Lousy Holiday Gifts, Consumer Reports News: December 14, 2011]

Last week we started an Advent series called Socks and Underwear which showed us that although Christ came in wildly unexpected ways—seemingly like the gift that no one really wanted, he was exactly what we need.  We saw Christ coming for a connection rather than for comfort, for our redemption rather than him enjoying royalty, and to love rather than solely to lead. Today we have to decide what to do with the gift, some choose to: Continue reading “Regifted”

Loving Rather Than Lording

As we unwrap the gift, we find God willing to overshadow us to work in us, Christ’s humility despite his royal identity, but the to fully grasp God’s gift, we find that:

Christmas was never about just leading us, but always about loving us!

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Have you ever questioned someone’s love for you?  A lady in Spain made the news when she chose a unique way of testing her husband’s love. With the help of a friend, she manipulated her own kidnapping and sent a ransom notice to her husband. When the police discovered the kidnapping was a hoax, they asked the lady why she did it. “I wanted to find out what my husband would do for me,” she replied. Source: AFP News

Look at how God reveals his love:  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Continue reading “Loving Rather Than Lording”

Humility Over Royalty

As the gift of Christ is delivered, we find that Jesus was on his way to a royal town without any of the trappings of royalty. Revealing that…

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Christmas was never about royalty alone, but always about humility. (Luke 2:1-7) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Luke connects his account to history, which can be verified and the veracity judged.  And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David-Jesus comes as one who legitimately could come and sit on the throne of David forever with a royal pedigree, as promised. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger (Cave with a trough carved into the walls), because there was no guest room available for them.

The prophet Micah had foretold that Bethlehem would become the home for the eternal ruler.  Yet, here is Jesus like socks and underwear; not really seemingly measuring up to what was expected of the MESSIAH, they wanted things to be put back as they once were. Since David and Solomon, the nation had divided into two, two exiles followed, then foreign powers oppressed the people—Persian, Greek, and finally Romans. Here is Jesus, the king of kings and Lord of lords born into a crummy manger, a cave with a trough carved into the wall, no palatial estate or grand trumpeted entrance.  Within a handful of miles, Herod’s grand palace could be seen, 90 ft. tall, 40 acres of building, 200 acres of garden and yet Jesus purposely is sent into his created world, humbly depended as a baby, humbly rugged rather than royal. Continue reading “Humility Over Royalty”

Connection Over Comfort

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Christmas is that special time of year where expectations runs rampant. There is always a transformation that begins after Black Friday. Ordinary kids who can’t find their backpack, shoe, or homework become certified gift-finding specialists. They go from never stepping foot inside the attic or in your closet to roaming around searching for the holy grail of presents. It doesn’t end when the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree. Kids and adults alike become like a bomb sniffing dog—checking the weight, shape, size, and sound trying to judge just how seriously we should take a prospective gift. You see this in the classic movie The Christmas Story, Ralphie wants one thing: an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, BB gun” and before his master plan to get it moves forward he is constantly fantasizing about what life will look like before he has ever held the gift in his hands. He envisioned stepping forward and fighting off Black Bart and his cohort of criminals. Ralphie anticipated the gift, but didn’t fully grasp what it meant!

 

Today we are starting a new advent series looking towards the gift that changed the globe in Jesus Christ. A gift that was wrapped, weighed, and wanted for centuries. Wrapped in hundreds of prophecy, weighed while the Jews faced oppression, and wanted as God seemingly had gone silent for over 400 years. The anticipation was great but what those in the 1st century unwrapped was something they didn’t fully grasp. In fact, we are calling this series Socks and Underwear because when you open a gift and see the first signs of socks, what do you do? Growl and then throw it aside. Yet like socks and underwear, Jesus is the gift that everyone needs, but don’t always seemingly want.

John 1:1 starts to unwrap the the magnitude of what mesmerized the people: In the beginning was the (Logos) word–the Jews viewed the word as the personification of God’s will and revelation while the Gentiles understood the LOGOS as the bridge from the divine to the dust (material world), the word was with God and the word was God. 14 The word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. As we turn to the story of Jesus advent in the Luke 1 starting in verse 26, we find that LOGOS was THEOS and God instead of making:

 

 

Christmas  about comfort, it was always about connection (Luke 1:26-31) 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Continue reading “Connection Over Comfort”

Random Thought

Pluralism argues that each worldview/belief should have equal standing, that no one belief should be allowed to stand above the rest. After all, don’t all roads lead to God? In our culture where tolerance is the supreme value we might find ourselves nodding along, but isn’t this really nothing more than “DIVINE IDENTITY THEFT”?

Personalize this! If suddenly 6 different people start using your SSN, credit card purchases start showing up in the Cayman Islands as you rough it through another snowfall, or your credit score takes a nosedive faster than the Cleveland Browns you probably would get pretty angry, right? Of course you would. They would be taking something from you that was rightly yours.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise with the 1st commandment: Thou shall have no other gods before me.

 

Future Celebration

It is the sacrifice that resemble Christ that we turn into movies, memorialize, and try to remember but all along God promises a…

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Future Celebration (Isaiah 54: 1-5) Isaiah acknowledges that price the son’s sacrifice paid, and then shifts from him bearing many sins to our response: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child (To be barren for a Jewish woman was a great shame and yet he calls on that woman to sing); burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. (Families depended on children for survival, before Social Security and nursing homes, but God says even the childless—prepare for a celebration.  “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah builds to an unlikely conclusion: that despite your current conditions, despite your past, your history, the offer is the same. You too, can be welcomed back where you were meant to be: united with the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Messiah Jesus, our maker is called our husband. Author Jim Liske, pointed out that husband is a Norse word—Old English literally meaning—“house tiller of the ground.” Jesus was sent to earth to prepare and then pursue his bride the Church—he came to till up the weeds that choke out our lives and to allow for new growth—to cultivate in us an opening for our potential to emerge. Jesus complete sacrifice, remarkably, becomes a sacrifice worth celebrating.     Continue reading “Future Celebration”

The Son’s Sacrifice

It was God’s investment on our behalf that allows us to embrace the role of investing in him, and yet God wasn’t done—the ultimate restoration wouldn’t be experienced just by coming to earth and living as man, but only through the…

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Son’s Sacrifice (Isaiah 53:4-9) Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions (Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 300-400BC and developed, during Roman times, into a punishment for the most serious of criminals.), he was crushed for our iniquities (“The weight of the body pulling down on the arms makes breathing extremely difficult,” says Jeremy Ward, a physiologist at King’s College London.); the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth (silent before Pontius Pilate); he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b] 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked (he gets the worst punishment the Romans had—and as the custom you didn’t get a proper burial, until Joseph of Arimathea stepped in and asked for the body giving up his tomb), and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Continue reading “The Son’s Sacrifice”