Prepare 3

1 Peter 1:8-9

Modern conveniences help us remain connected with family and friends. Although we may live a hundred miles away from loved ones we can still communicate with them over phones, e-mail and instant messages. Although we can not see them we can still express our love for them. Although we are separated by time and distance still we are connected.

In his first letter Peter speaks of a similar connection in our relationship with Jesus. What can’t we do? What do we still feel? Why do we feel this?

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, an event that took place about 2,000 years ago. With that expanse of time between the occurrence and the remembrance it is easy for us to lose sight of what is truly going on in our holiday revelry. Because of the distance of time we do not see Jesus. We did not see him while he was on earth and we do not see him now.

Added to this is the tendency for modern society to help blur the image of Christ. So often the Christmas holiday seems to deviate more and more from honoring the gift of Jesus. It seems to become more and more about material gifts and mindless parties.

But we, as faithful believers, must prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. We must take an intentional approach to the holiday, keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive in our hearts and minds.

In spite of the obstacles of time and distance between us and the birth of Jesus we still love the Lord. We still believe in who he was and is. We still believe in the purpose and meaning of his birth and life.

We must be aware of the purpose of this tremendous gift. We must remember that Jesus was born so that we might have salvation and the promise of everlasting life with our God.

As we enter into this holiday season let us enter in with watchful eyes and an eager heart, an attitude of expectation. Let us enter the holidays prepared to truly worship the Lord, the king who brings God’s peace.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you see Jesus more clearly this holiday?

Prepare 2

Matthew 2:1-2

As a pastor there are many times when people will tell me that I might expect a phone call from someone else. They often explain what is going on, what problem, what need, and then when I do receive the call I am at least partially informed of what to expect. I must be prepared so that I can help.

Part of the familiar Christmas story involves the Magi, a term which means “wise men.” Where were the Magi from? What did they want to know? What made them look for this new king?

Little is known of these Magi, but we can assume from their story and the term that is used to describe them that they were intelligent men, astronomers, and apparently men of some financial means. They must have been watching the skies for any change in the formations of the stars because the appearance of a special star tipped them off that a great event had happened. A king was born to the Jewish people.

And whoever it was that was born must have been a special king since there is little record of foreigners traveling long distances to honor any of the other kings born to a royal family. The Magi claimed that they had come, not just to bring nice gifts, but to worship this new king.

These Magi (somehow gaining the title of “kings” over the years) are a traditional part of the story. There images are among the figures of any Nativity scene during the holidays. And they teach an important lesson about our approach to the Christmas celebration.

We can assume that they had prepared for this event. Their journey and their gifts were not a spur of the moment decision. They had anticipated the birth. They had watched for the sign. They had prepared so they would be ready to worship the new king when he arrived.

We too must approach Christmas like the Magi. We too must be wise in our preparation for the holiday. We should be prepared to honor God at Christmas, not allowing the holiday to surprise us and not allowing ourselves to miss out on the true meaning of what is going on. We must be ready to worship the king this holiday.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to prepare yourself to worship Christ this Christmas?

Prepare 1

Isaiah 9:2

A few years ago our church provided gift cards for needy families in the area. I was the one fortunate enough to have the task of delivering them. It was a true joy to see the faces of those who received these gifts, faces that brightened and lit up when they realized their holiday season with all of its stress and financial burdens had just been lightened.

The gifts we give at Christmas are but a poor reflection of the greatest gift that God gave the world. The prophet Isaiah sums up the feeling we can know when we see what God has done. Who are the people walking in darkness? What is the great light? What is the land of the shadow of death?

We can easily lose sight of why we celebrate and what it is we are remembering in our holiday traditions. We can get caught up in all the decorations and the gift-giving, preceded by all the gift buying that we endure. But at the heart of it all is the gift of God’s gracious love in the form of the baby Jesus.

When we reach that realization, when it becomes clear to us that the reason for all the Christmas pageantry and busy-ness is because we are filled with joy that God has loved us so much that He sent Jesus to the world that we might have everlasting life, then our joy can flash inside of us like a brilliant light. This is the image that Isaiah addresses.

This passage from Isaiah is a standard for the holiday. It is one of the first passages read that addresses the reason for the Christmas celebration. But what we can overlook is that we are the people spoken of by the prophet. We can be those people living in darkness. We can be the ones living in a world that has no hope and no direction.

We can be the people living in the shadow of death, the death of the soul, if we are not aware of the salvation God provides. And when we realize that God has sent Christ to the world to save us, then we can have the light of hope and love brighten our empty and dark souls. We can be filled with joy.

If we will truly honor the holiday and the memory of God’s gift we must be prepared to recognize that gift. We must watch to see God’s love moving in our world today.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where do you need God’s light in your life?