Attitude 5

Philippians 3:7-9

The other night I caught Andy Rooney’s segment on “60 Minutes.” He talked about all the things that he saves. He has boxes and boxes of letters and mementos he has amassed over the years, things he just can’t let go of.

I got to thinking about all the “things” we have had in our life. Now and then we simply have to go through all the possessions we have and toss out those items we no longer value and that are simply taking up space. There are times when we must take the same approach to our spiritual and mental state.

Paul’s message to the Philippians puts our material possessions and some of our attitudes into perspective. What is the comment on what is valuable or profitable? How does our relationship to Jesus compare with everything else in our lives?

Paul recognized how very important the gift of Jesus was. He saw that all things in his life, even those things that might bring the benefit of physical comfort or enjoyment, are not as important as knowing Jesus. He considered “everything” a loss and “rubbish” compared to the salvation gained through Christ.

Over the years it seems the Christmas holiday has become less and less about Jesus and God’s gift to humanity and more and more about the material possessions we can get. Our focus can sometimes stray from the spiritual blessings of God’s love. Our attitude can slip into one of greed and consumerism.

As we enter into the Christmas season, as we go through the tradition of exchanging costly presents with one another, we must see that our gifts at Christmas are but a poor reflection of the greatest gift that has ever been given, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. All of the bright paper and bows that adorn our presents, all the money spent, all the material possessions that fill our homes at the holidays are as nothing compared to the greatness of the love that God expressed to us through the baby born so long ago.

Before we allow ourselves to be caught up in the drive to spend more and more money, to give bigger and better gifts, let us be certain our attitude at the holidays is put in the correct perspective. Let us realize what the most important part of Christmas really is.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you keep Jesus at the center of Christmas?

Attitude 4

John 1:10-11

One of the gifts we received on our wedding was an incredibly nice pizza stone. It apparently helps you bake a pizza in the oven by distributing the heat more evenly. It was a nice gift in that we recognized that it was an expensive present and a well-made stone.

The problem was that we really didn’t make a lot of pizzas when we were first married, or for the first ten or fifteen years for that matter. The stone was tucked away, unused for many years until at last it either was damaged or we simply got tired of having it and we threw it out. We had a great gift that we just didn’t appreciate or value.

Unfortunately the same thing can happen with our attitude toward Jesus. What does John have to say about Jesus? What did the world NOT do? Who are the people described as “his own?”

John’s comments let us know exactly who Jesus is. He is God. He was with God in the beginning of all things and, according to John, Jesus was that part of God which created all that exists. Yet, in spite of who Jesus was, the world did not recognize him as God. Although Jesus was the Immanuel – God with us – still the people of earth did not see the value of Jesus. The people then did not receive him.

The same can be true even today. There are many in the world who do not recognize who Jesus is. They do not see the value of the baby born in Bethlehem.

And even those who are Christians, who claim a belief and acceptance of Jesus, can lose sight of the true meaning of what Christmas is all about. People today can reject him, or not receive him, if they lose sight of the meaning of Christmas.

When we approach Christmas with our focus on the gifts we exchange with one another, or we focus on the lights and decorations of Christmas, we have lost the value of the reason for the holy birth. We must keep our focus on why Christmas is celebrated. We must be certain our attitude is one that celebrates the salvation God offers through His Son. And this may require a change in our attitude this holiday.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show that you value who Jesus is?

Attitude 3

John 3:17

The other night I had to drop our son off at a worship practice on my way to a church meeting. When we got to the church where our son was supposed to practice no one was there. We had to wait about thirty minutes until someone finally arrived and let him in, which made me about forty-five minutes late for my meeting.

While we were waiting I could see that our son was feeling uncomfortable. He said that he didn’t want me to be late for my meeting. I think he feared that I would be angry and upset, which I wasn’t. What was going on with him was far more important.

When we consider our relationship with our Almighty God we can feel a bit intimidated. While on one hand we may long to stand in the very presence of our God to experience His wonderful glory, on the other hand we are likely to be aware of how undeserving we are of God’s love. The thought of being before our Lord may make us fear His wrath and anger.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration that God sent Himself to live among us. Those who came to honor the newborn king and those who followed him as he taught and preached were all in the very presence of God. Aware of this they may have realized how unworthy they were. They may have feared the Lord’s judgment.

But John indirectly has something to say about the birth of Jesus. What was NOT the purpose of Jesus’ coming? What did Jesus come to do?

Such knowledge, such information, such awareness may be something quite unexpected. Many people, ourselves included, may expect judgment from God. The announcement of the birth of Christ may have been cause for alarm. But the truth was that the birth of the baby in Bethlehem was an unexpected gift of mercy and love. It was an act of grace from God – grace being that undeserved love from the Lord.

As we enter into this holiday season let us not forget that we are honoring the gift of salvation. We are remembering and celebrating the forgiving love of God. We have been given the unexpected – and undeserved – forgiveness of our sins through the birth of a little baby.

DAILY CHALLENGE: This Christmas, what can you do to remind yourself of why Jesus came?

Attitude 2

Matthew 2:9-11

When I was about seven or eight years old my friend and I decided to have a party at my house. We invited some kids in the neighborhood and we planned a few games and a silly puppet show.

It was no big event, just a bunch of kids getting together to have some fun. But one of the other children, Brian, was apparently unfamiliar with our concept of a party. He showed up dressed in a small jacket and tie and bearing a gift.

The Magi from the story of Christmas have traveled a great distance to visit the new king of the Jews. They had seen a great star appear in the sky and knew it was a sign of a tremendous event. Their first stop was with King Herod, but there they learned that their search must continue. What was their attitude as they neared their destination? What did they do when they found the baby? What were their gifts?

It seems obvious that these wise men from the east were expecting to find a child of royal birth, or perhaps a great political leader who had risen to power in Israel. Their first stop was at the royal palace, but that wasn’t where the king of the Jews lived. They had to continue their journey until they found the humble home where a carpenter, his young bride, and their baby were staying.

There may have been a sense of confusion for these wise men. They seem to have been men of wealth and prestige, and here they were entering the house of an ordinary craftsman, a laborer, and not a home of a powerful and rich family.

Their gifts were expensive, rare commodities not found among the working class. They had exceptional spices and incense. They had gold. And the person to receive these gifts was a baby who was kept in a manger.

It seems apparent that the wise men were expecting one thing, but found something completely different.

As we enter this holiday season we may find ourselves expecting certain things. We may be expecting the holiday to please us with material gifts. We may be expecting a time of food and frivolity.

We may not be expecting Christmas to be a time of spiritual fulfillment. We may not be expecting God to touch our hearts and souls. But that might be exactly what will happen this Christmas. It is possible that we will find our holiday filled with the holy realization of God’s love and not the empty pleasures of materialism.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to make Christmas more of a spiritual experience this year?

Attitude 1

Luke 2:10-12

Many years ago I went to the annual church picnic our previous church used to hold. I don’t remember why I decided to go that year; I think it was out of a sense of obligation to family. I attended but expected to have a pretty boring time – I mean, how can you have any fun with church people?

I was very wrong. I had a fantastic afternoon and evening, hours of games and swimming and great food. I recall not wanting it to end, leaving reluctantly as it got dark.

Sometimes life surprises you with nice things. You may expect one thing and then get something totally different. Such is the case with the Christmas story.

Luke’s account of the miraculous gift of Jesus focuses on the shepherds who were tending their flocks near Bethlehem. While they were out in their fields one night an angel appeared to them. What hope does the angel bring? What has happened? What should the shepherds look for?

God has at last sent the Messiah, a Savior, an expression of God’s love that is meant o be received by the entire world. We can imagine the incredible joy the shepherds must have felt when they heard the news. And the angel then told them how to find this incredible gift. They were to go to Bethlehem and search for this new Messiah.

They may have expected to be told a name. They may have expected to have been told about some great and powerful leader who lived in the nearby town. But instead they are told to search for a baby. And the baby they should search for was going to be a poor child, one wrapped in the traditional swaddling cloths of the common folk and not the child of a wealthy or royal family.

The baby would not be found in a great house surrounded by the comforts of a life of plenty. Instead, the baby would be found in a feeding trough for animals.

As much as this news may have confused and confounded these shepherds, they had to be faithful and go seek out the child. They had to believe that this child born in low estate was indeed the amazing gift God had promised.

We too may have expectations for Christmas. We may expect that the season will be filled with stress and worry. We may expect the holiday to be a repeat of what we have been through before. Or our expectations may be for wonderful presents, things we would love to have in our life.

Whatever our expectations, we must approach the holiday with a heart and mind open to what God might have in store for us. If we can trust in the Lord we might be surprised at the wonderful joys we will find this holiday.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to be more open to the unexpected joys of Christmas?