Jonathan's Perspective  

Dec 7

Preparing for Christmas

'Preparing for Christmas'

How do you get ready for Christmas?  Put up a tree, lights, and buy presents?  We exhaust ourselves running to stores, parties and special events.  In trying to do so much, we can fail to 'make ready' in the most important ways.  In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple and told him that he would have a son, John the Baptist, who would 'make ready a people prepared for the Lord.' Luke 1:17. Let's take a look at what it meant for John to make ready God's people.

Restore People's Relationships with God:  In Luke 1:16 Gabriel foretells John's work saying,'Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.'  The noted Christian sociologist and statistician George Barna says that many college students who leave the faith are actually looking for 'authentic expressions of faith.'  They grew up in churches where the prayers, creeds and activities seemed canned and lifeless.  The commercialization of the faith around Christmas can highlight that sense of vacuous activity.  Many people come to church around Christmas hoping to find a profound love and receive the gift of God's very self.  They want to know that they are special and valued enough that Jesus came to live with and in them.  They want to know that they do not bear the burdens of this world by themselves, but that God will abide with them and give them strength and direction. 

                This Christmas season, make ready by inviting friends to special Christmas events.  All that most people need is a real person like you or me - warts and all - sharing the love of God with them.  The special music, feasting and fellowship all serve to connect us with God and one another.  You might also make an effort to greet and get to know someone who has come to your church for the first time.  Instead of coming to worship and leaving as normal, how about inviting a new person or family to join you for lunch?  Let them get to know a real, down-to-earth Christian - just as Jesus came 'down to earth' to be with us. 

 

Restore Family Relationships:  John has another task to 'make ready a people' - restoring families.  'He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children...' (v. 17) This may seem like an impossible task, but, as Gabriel said to Mary, 'Nothing is impossible with God' (Lk 1:37) Restoring broken or painful relationships may be one of the most miraculous healings of all.  We often heal from broken bones faster than from broken relationships.  It takes a great deal of power to restore relationships; power to forgive; power to change destructive speech and behavior; power to fulfill the law of love, 'to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere' (I Cor 13).  Such power comes from the Holy Spirit.

                What can we do this Holy season to restore relationships?  Instead of focusing on things, let's focus on the main people God has entrusted to our care - parents, children, siblings.  Do something relationally special with your immediate family.  Light an Advent Wreath each night and talk about the stories of God's love and joy announcing Jesus' birth.  Go caroling together.  Go shopping for an Angel Tree child together.  For the relationships that are harder, prepare yourself for those encounters.  You don't have to be caught off guard at those family dinners--they happen every year.  Instead, pray for the person and focus on their good qualities.  Seek advice from someone you think could give you good insight as to how to change your emotions and reactions to the difficult relative.  Train yourself to react in a positive instead of negative way.  God has anointed you to restore that relationship.

Restore Communities:  The last task of John to 'make ready a people for God' was to restore communities.  He would '...turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous...'(Luke 1:17)  The births of John and Jesus are about restoring righteousness, or justice, to the world.  While righteousness begins with us and our families, it also includes our whole community.  The larger vision is that the Kingdom of God will be fully established on earth beginning with we who believe.  God says, 'We can do this the easy way or the hard way.'  The easy way is to enter into the Kingdom of God and begin to life by the Spirit of Righteousness in all we do.  The hard way is to do our own thing until Christ returns and we are blindsided by the just judgment of God.  We should never forget that one day all wrongs will be righted, and that we, as Christians, should begin righting those wrongs now.

                All of us face some kind of injustice in our workplaces and/or community.  The systems of toxic relationships seethe around us.  Has God been calling you to address an unhealthy system or behavior pattern at work?  Is there some wrong that He wants you to put right at work?  Perhaps it is a legal issue of meeting regulations, or a pervasive lack of integrity in dealing with clients, or toxic and abusive management.  Is there someone or a group of people that God wants you to 'turn to wisdom'?  Health and life are gifts of God that have been entrusted to you.  Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove to bring healthy dynamics to your workplace and community.

                Make yourself, family & community ready for Christmas by inviting people back to God, restoring family relationships and turning your community to the wisdom of God.  I guarantee you will have the most meaningful Christmas yet.

 

Blessed to be a Blessing,

Jonathan

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