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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Not Letting the Familiar Steal My Christmas

In review of Ephesians 4:18 it says, “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him”

Bottom Line:
Do not allow yourself to be kept in the darkness, far from what God wants for you, because you become ignorant or stubborn and allow your heart to be hardened.

What this means to me:
I should avoid falling back into prior ways before realizing the life that Christ offers. Wandering far enough to miss out on a life that God wants me to have and experience, all because I allow my mind to be closed or my attitude to be stubborn or ignorant.  All of which would harden my heart.

Today's passage comes from the book of Ephesians chapter 4 in a section where Paul tells us how to live as children of light. He tells us to no longer live as the Gentiles do for they are hopeless confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But this is not what we learned about Christ. Since we have learned the truth that comes from him, we should throw off our old sinful natures and former ways of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on our new nature, created to be like God; truly righteous and holy.

Today I am reminded of how our manmade traditions can overshadow what Christmas is all about. I should not let the familiar steal my celebration of Christmas this year.

I’ve celebrated Christmas for my whole life. In it I’ve heard about the Christmas story; Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. I’ve heard about the shepherds and the wise men. I’ve sung songs about them. I’ve watched them in Christmas plays. It’s all familiar. And It may not really inspire or amaze me anymore.

Seems I’m not alone in this. I’m reminded that even during the very first Christmas, there was a group of people who missed the birth of Jesus because of familiarity, the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Within the whole Christmas narrative, that when the Son of God was born, not a single religious person was invited. Those who should have known the most about the birth of Jesus, the spiritual and religious leaders of Israel, didn’t have a clue.

Wise men who had studied the Hebrew Scriptures came from the East (not Israel) because they had seen the star. They knew the Savior of the world had been born. They just didn’t know where he would be born.

When they asked King Herod of Israel, he didn’t have any idea. He asked his religious scholars. They knew exactly what he was talking about. They’d been waiting for this for hundreds of years. They had discussed it, debated it, detailed it, and dissected it.

The Bible says King Herod “called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’ ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote’” (Matthew 2:4-5 NLT).

The three wise men, foreign dignitaries, came a long distance, to witness the birth of Jesus. The king was so concerned that he called a special meeting. Yet his religious advisers, who were already in Israel, didn’t want to even check out the claim. Israel’s religious leaders had waited for centuries for Jesus to come. Over time, they started paying more attention to traditions than waiting for the Messiah.

This sounds familiar. We have so many Christian traditions. They just keep adding up: Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and Elf on the Shelf. We have new tradition after new tradition, but no one is talking about the real reason for the season.  None of those traditions will make a real, lasting difference in your life. But a relationship with God will.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew every religious tradition by heart, but they wouldn’t walk five miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to witness the birth of God’s Son. So I think about how people will put up lights, have parties, give gifts, and send out cards. They’ll participate in every single Christmas tradition they can squeeze into December.

So, I shouldn’t be like the religious leaders who were more concerned with tradition. Rather I should follow the example of the wise men, and seek God this Christmas. It is the reason we celebrate Christmas, God wants to connect with me!

I should consider how I can experience the Christmas story in a fresh new way this year?