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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas outside the Wall

Christmas outside the Walls
The Christmas season is a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  And the Christmas season is also a time to celebrate family. Scripture says: “Oh how good and pleasant it is when family lives together in harmony.”  (Psalm 133:1) We picture Christmas with family laughing together around the dinner table and opening gifts around the tree. Family members sharing stories and playing games together, singing carols and going to church together. When we think of Christmas we think of family.
But then there are people who don’t have family to be a part of on Christmas.  Death has separated these sad ones from a beloved family member. Every year churches open their doors for “blue” Christmas services for grieving widows and widowers who have lost spouses or for bereaving children whose parents have died. 
But sometimes arguments or even abandonment can separate people from the warmth and belonging that family should bring at Christmas as well as every day. As the smells of Christmas cooking and the noise of love and laughter drift by from other family groups celebrating Christmas together, these ones without family sit alone at Christmas often feeling rejected and bitter. They say that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for these ones without family- these ones who spend their Christmases alone - outside the wall.     
We celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas because Jesus saves us from our sins.  Ephesians 2:13 says: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Scripture says that long ago only the Jewish nation had God’s promises and our Gentile ancestors were far away from God.  Jews and Gentiles could not eat together since Jews were “circumcised” and the Gentiles were “uncircumcised.”  The Jews who were “clean” were prejudiced against the Gentiles who were “unclean.”  And the Gentiles were hostile towards their Jewish neighbors too. (Ephesians 2)  There was a dividing wall that separated them.
But Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall!  To break down separation.  To put us back together. Scripture says: “for He himself is our peace, who has made the two one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...  His purpose was to make the two into one in Himself.  Thus making peace and reconciling both the Jew and the Gentile to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility.  Jesus came to preach peace – to you who were far away from God and peace to those who were near to God… In Him you are all being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2: 14, 15b, 16, 17, 22)
We celebrate the good news of Christmas because Jesus came into the world to tear down the wall (of sin) that separates us from God and from one another.  We sing Christmas carols about His wonderful Gift to us – His love and His forgiveness.  We kneel and we pray, we light candles, and give gifts and offerings. The tinsel, the tree, the baby Jesus, the festive dinner, the Christmas music! It is a holy time.
But Jesus wants us to be more involved at Christmas than to just enjoy ourselves.  Jesus calls us to follow His example and tear down the walls in our lives that separate us from our loved ones! To share their burdens and be patient with the little annoyances they sometimes cause us.  To follow Jesus and forgive them like He forgives us. To spread His grace and love over all of our dealings.
We try to follow Jesus, but it is not easy. There are walls in our lives already sturdily in place that divide. If we look we may see strong walls of resentment we have built around ourselves – constructed for our protection!  And then walls of self-righteousness we set up to keep out those people who don’t measure up to our high standards.  And of course the walls of indifference that so easily pop up in our minds to separate us from all those people who are inferior.  And there are walls of fear that automatically appear at every turn.  So many walls in our lives!  What can we do?
We are comfortable with our walls but Jesus is not. He keeps calling. Calling us to open up to sharing His love.  He keeps urging us to tear down any walls of hate in our lives.  To keep the peace as much as we can. He keeps promising that we can do it if we follow where He is leading.  That He will be with us and give us the love to make it happen.
You may have tried to tear down the walls in your life and found that you cannot do it on your own.  But Jesus can do it through you!  Because of His birth we can have “new birth” or be “born again”.  The characteristics of the new birth is that we yield ourselves to God so that Christ’s spirit is formed in us and His nature begins to work through us.  Just as Our Lord came into human history 2,000 years ago, so He must come into our lives today.  Have we made room for Him to come into our lives?  Scripture says: “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)  If we make room for Him to be born in us He will give us the power to break down our walls and transform our lives . 

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