Friday, December 9, 2011

Are You Ready?

 Well, after months of planning and rehearsals, Carols by Candlelight is here! The week of Carols is always an interesting time for me personally. Without failure, each year I find myself “second guessing” myself on countless things:
    LLG at the historic site of Jesus' birth at the
    Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
  • “Was this the right song choice?”
  • “Should we have done this scene differently?”
  • “Is the drama effective?”
  • “Should we have included a secular segment?”
  • “Will we get all the technical aspects worked out?
  • “Have I completely blown it?”
 I’m amazed that each year by Friday morning God gives me a perfect peace that “all is well”. In fact, this morning I can look back and trace God’s hand in every aspect of our planning: song selection, program concept, lighting design, rehearsal strategy, etc.

Most importantly, even as I type this email I know that God is working in the hearts of people who will be here tonight. These folks are coming from all walks of life. For many, their lives are in chaos. They need to hear about the Prince of Peace…because they need peace! For others, they walk through the motions of Christmas, but have never personally met the Christ of Christmas. Tonight, whether they know it or not, God will orchestrate events so they have that opportunity. And you and I get to be the messenger…WOW!

This summer when the choir was in Israel I believe the Lord gave me specific direction on this year’s presentation. We already had finalized the script and music selection and had sent different songs out to be arranged. I remember bending over to touch the traditional birthplace of Jesus at the Church of the Nativity and realizing that God had a different plan. That experience led to the presentation we will share this weekend with the 15,000 people who will brave crowds, parking nightmares, standing in line, and literally fighting for a seat.

You and I have an enormous privilege tonight. We get to tell the greatest story ever told. It is my prayer that your hearts will be filled with peace…your faces will radiate joy…and that we will allow every word we sing to come from the deepest part of our relationship with the Christ of Bethlehem. At this point, rehearsals are over, the lights are hung and the people will be here…it’s time to tell the story!

For many years the late Paul Harvey would tell the following story as part of his Christmas radio broadcast. This weekend may we give Him the very best we have. After all, He did so for us!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Bethlehem Innkeeper Getting a Bum Rap
By Paul Harvey

The Bethlehem Innkeeper has been getting a bum rap.

Every Christmas, and sometimes in between, pulpits are aflame with righteous wrath over the story of Jesus being born in a manger. The very idea that men had waited for 20 centuries of darkness for the long-sought light to enter the world through the window of a stable. Prophets of the Old Testament had told them where to expect the baby and approximately when—yet the innkeeper did not even reserve a room.

Hold the phone! The innkeeper has been getting a bum rap! If Robert Schuller was not the first to remind us, he was certainly the most eloquent, when once upon a Christmas time he re-recited the Bethlehem story and protested that the innkeeper had become the victim of cheap shots by preachers, teachers and pageant writers. The Bible does not accuse the innkeeper. Joseph did not complain to the innkeeper. Mary did not complain.

Actually, the stable was a cave in a hillside where cattle lived. It had many advantages over a room at the inn. The Inn of Bethlehem was no Marriott Hotel It was a place where the masses collected – ruffians, thieves, heavy drinkers and rowdy men. In the inn, there would have been no soft straw bed. Mary would have had to lie on a hard floor. The inn was jam-packed at tax-paying time. The groans and natural screens of a teenage mother delivering her first child would have been overheard in other rooms.

In the stable was privacy, where none would overhear her labor. No leering eyes would peer upon a woman giving birth. The stable was safe, secure and warmer than the inn. The inn was without heat. No furnaces and not more than one lobby fireplace. But the nostrils of carrel, exhaling steam, breathing in the cold air and breathing our warm air warmed the stable.

What might Joseph have done to protect his tax money against the thieves and ruffians in the inn? In the safety of the stable, there was no fear of a knife at one’s throat in the night.
So God and the innkeeper cooperated to provide a perfect place for Jesus to be born – a safe, quiet, soft, warm, perfect place.

And besides, the much maligned innkeeper of Bethlehem had given the best that he had – and that is all that is asked of any of us.

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