Rebel 5

Isaiah 55:2

Christmas in years past has been a time of giving our children popular toys and games that they have wanted. They begged for this new gadget or that popular item. But there have been so many years where we bought the latest fad, the hottest item on the shelves, only to have the toy fall apart after just a few days, or be neglected by our children in short order because the FUN just didn’t last very long.

As our children have grown older the gifts have been just as much desired, but tend to be presents that will last. The gifts are fewer but are better investments.

In this passage from Isaiah we have a simple message from God. What question does God pose? What does God suggest instead?

Like the toys that are short-lived, the food at the holidays can be overly sweet and extra rich. Taking in too much of these empty calories can leave us all feeling sick instead of joyful.

The same can be true of our attitudes at Christmas. If the holiday is a celebration of things – what we can get, what we can buy, what we can surround ourselves with – then the season can leave us empty. If our efforts and work are all spent on the temporary decorations and rushing here and there, we can end up with an emptiness inside.

Rather than focus on temporary things, we ought to rebel against the temptation to spend and buy and fill our lives with empty items. Instead we should focus on the real gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ. In that gift from God are everlasting love and a soul-satisfying contentment that comes with the salvation Jesus provides.

God wants us to eat what is good, and He is not just talking about food. He is talking about taking in, consuming, holy and spiritual goodness, consuming the love and grace He offers. God wants us to stop wasting our labors on those things that are fleeting and momentary, and spend our time in more lasting endeavors such as strengthening our own faith and sharing love and caring with others.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you invest your time and energy in this year that will give you lasting satisfaction?

Rebel 4

Matthew 2:1-2

Part of the fun of Christmas is the surprise of the gifts. It is fun to give someone something when they aren’t exactly sure what it is that they are getting. There is joy in seeing the look of excitement at some unexpected present. One of my worries over the holidays is accidentally spilling the beans about what gifts we are giving.

The gift of Jesus Christ was indeed one of those unexpected gifts in a way. The birth of a Messiah was predicted and looked for, but no one knew exactly when it would happen. And the birth of this small child was the beginning of a rebellion in that society. Jesus, the Messiah, came to turn things upside down, to help the poor, to heal the sick, to forgive sinners. He would be a king far different from the earthly kings people were accustomed to.

One of the signs to indicate the birth of this new king was a star that appeared in the east. Who came because of the star? Who did they visit first?

The wise men, or Magi, were able to determine that a great king had been born in Judea. A star had appeared and they followed it many miles to Jerusalem. And here, in this capital city, they looked first for the new king. They asked the current king, Herod, about the new-born child.

It was an innocent assumption on the part of these three. They assumed that the next great king would be born in the majestic and important city of Jerusalem, so they started their search there. But in visiting Herod they tipped their hand, so to speak. They let this cruel and ruthless king know that one greater than he had been born. Herod learned from the wise men that a rebellion was beginning.

But that rebellion was not a political or military rebellion. It was a rebellion of attitude and behavior. Jesus came to bring love and peace and mercy, not strife and struggle and greed.

As we celebrate Christmas this year we encourage you to be part of the rebellion Jesus began. Rebel against strife and greed. Rebel against insensitivity and callous behavior. Instead, let us spend less money on presents and spend more time in fellowship with one another. Let us share a smile and our time with those we love, and also with the stranger we see on the street.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there something new you will do this Christmas, something good that is different than what you have done in the past?

Rebel 3

Luke 2:8-10

Nancy, a woman from our previous church, started her own ministry by helping out underprivileged school children. She raised money throughout the year by accepting used book donations, and then selling these used books for $1 or 50¢. With that money she took Christmas presents to needy children in select families.

It was a simple ministry, but it had a big impact. She said that there were many times that her gift was the only gift these children received.

We can easily forget about the poor and underprivileged in our society when we surround ourselves with the abundance of Christmas. But we need to remember who was involved in the birth of Jesus. Who heard the message about the birth? Who told them?

A few years back we found information that pointed to the concept that these shepherds were not just any group of men. Indications are that they were temple shepherds, special shepherds responsible for a flock of perfect sheep available for sacrifice.

But that really doesn’t matter. Shepherds in that society at that time were considered to be among the poor. Shepherds, even temple shepherds, were considered outcasts, laborers who were physically dirty and therefore spiritually unclean.

Yet they were the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. They were informed, not through a mysterious sign in the sky or a dream that needed to be interpreted, but by the physical and personal appearance of God’s own messengers, a host of angels. The glory of God, the promise of salvation, the great news was all revealed to these poor outcasts.

This serves as a reminder that Christmas is all about love and not about presents and spending. Christmas is for everyone.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Will you rebel against tradition and include the hungry, the poor, and the underprivileged in your Christmas?

Rebel 2

Luke 2:22-24

Childhood memories of Christmas growing up are memories mostly of what we did together as a family. As I grew up our family never had a great deal of money to spare, but we always had sufficient presents to be happy on Christmas morning. Yet, I can only remember one or two presents from all those years.

What I remember most is how we celebrated the holidays. Christmas was a solid week of visiting with friends and extended family members – cousins and uncles and aunts. It was the socializing, the fellowship and the fun that made Christmas so special.

Returning to the story of Joseph and Mary at the temple, where they will encounter Simeon, we see some interesting information about them. Why were Joseph and Mary in Jerusalem? What was their offering?

While this passage may seem to be one of those sections that is entirely utilitarian – something helpful and necessary for the story, but really not interesting – it actually tells us something of Jesus and his family. The sacrifice they brought to the temple consists of two birds, either doves or pigeons.

In Leviticus 12 we see regulations for this sacrifice. What is required is the offering of a lamb; however, Leviticus 12:8 states that if a person “cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons.” With that we are to understand that Joseph and Mary could not afford a lamb. In other words, they were among the working poor of the land.

Why is this important? I believe it is important to be reminded that Jesus was a gift not just to wealthy and powerful people, but was born among the poor of Israel. The celebration of his birth does not require that a great deal of money be spent. Rather, we should rebel against the temptations of over-spending and worship God with our hearts and not our wallets.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you reduce the amount of money you spend on Christmas gifts this year? A good goal may be to lower your spending by 25%.

Rebel 1

Luke 1:46-48

There is no question that there is a great deal of commerce, business, buying and selling, connected with the Christmas holidays. This past week-end we were among the thousands and thousands at a Cincinnati mall where business was booming. With all the gifts being accumulated and all the bright and beautiful decorations – even in our own houses – it can be easy to think that Christmas is all for those who have money.

But the gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ came to a young girl who had very little possession. In Luke we have “Mary’s Song,” the response that Mary gives when she learns that she will bear the Lord’s Son. What is Mary’s attitude? What does she say about herself in verse 48?

The source of our Christmas holiday is from the birth of the baby Jesus. This time of exchanging gifts is to remind us that God gave the greatest of all gifts. But what has become a holiday that emphasizes money actually began with an emphasis on the poor.

God was indeed mindful of the humble state of his servant. Christ came not just for the rich, not just for the powerful, not just for the influential. Jesus was a gift to all people, especially the poor and oppressed. This is made clear because Jesus was born to a poor family, an average family, a family not unlike yours and mine.

This priceless and wonderful present of love and hope and salvation was meant for all people. It was a free gift that cost nothing, yet has value beyond comprehension.

Aware of the simplicity of God’s gift, let us take on an attitude of rebellion this Advent. Let us rebel against getting caught up in excessive spending, pricey presents, and oppressive debt. Let us keep our focus on the true gift of Christmas and give priceless gifts of our time and emotions.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you give a gift that costs nothing but has great value? Can you give a gift of your time and attention to a loved one?