Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God Born in a Manger...

It really is an amazing story!  Like many of you, I’ve heard this story my entire life.  As a young child I learned about it in Sunday School and heard it told each year in my home.  As a minister of music for almost 30 years I’ve help tell this story every Christmas, and I’ve attended so many Christmas musicals, Christmas cantatas and children’s pageants that sometimes I feel I know the shepherds on a first name basis.  Unfortunately, for those of us who know the Christmas story so well, if we’re not careful we can get so familiar with the events surrounding Christmas that we miss the purpose of Christmas.
You and I were created to have a relationship with God…but sin creates a barrier to that relationship and causes us to have an empty place in our hearts.  If you look around you will see people trying to fill that place with different things.  It might be money, fame, or relationships…but nothing works.  At the end of the day that empty place remains.  No matter how hard we try, nothing can fill that empty place but God…that’s why we were created.
But God has a plan.  The Bible tells us that in the fullness of time, or when the time was just right, that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to be born in a manger.  That’s the story we all know so well…but the story doesn’t end there.  You see, for the next 33 years Jesus would walk this earth, ministering to those around Him, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead.  Then, in the greatest display of love in the history of the universe, the Babe of Bethlehem would die on the cross of Calvary so that our sins could be forgiven.  Because of his death, that empty place can be filled and we can have the relationship with God that we were intended to have.  That is the purpose of Christmas.
As Christians we must be ever mindful that the manger always stands in the shadow of the cross, for without the cross, Christmas is just another birthday. 
George was a good man.  He was a good father, honest, a successful business leader.  He just didn’t buy the whole Christmas thing.  It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
 “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”…and he sank to his knees in the snow…and believed.

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