It Smells like Christmas

Christmas decorations have all but disappeared from my home.  Just our plain old house with the regular 365 day a year furnishings.  None of the decorations of a glorious month of celebration remain.  Packed once more into plastic totes in the garage.  Awaiting their return to the attic.  Until next December.

No garland.  Lighted & strung with ribbons of red & gold.  No Nativities.  Reminding us always of God's love through Jesus.  No tree.  Live Frasier Fir covered with heirlooms & history, whimsy & joy.

It makes these January days seem colder still.  Emptier. Less colorful.  Even Scroogey. 

The decor of Christmas - beautiful reminders of wonder - is gone 'til next year.

But there is one place you can go in my home & still know Christmas.  Not where you might expect.  Out of the way.  And just for a while.

The storage closet.  At the bottom of the basement stairs.  It smells like Christmas.

Our vacuum resides there.  It's bag filled with fallen fir needles.  Aromatic indeed.  A reminder of Christmas.

What about you?

As you launch into a new year - full of dreams & hopes, promises & resolutions - is your life a reminder of Christmas?

Year-round - not just one shinning month - does the world see the Savior in you?  Do they hear his grace in your speech?  Do they see his forgiveness in your eyes?  Do they receive his gifts from your hands?  Do they receive his life through yours?

Does your life smell like Christmas?

A Christmas Offering

We bring an offering of worship to our King

No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing

Jesus, may you receive the honor that you are due

O Lord, I bring an offering to you

- Christmas Offering, Paul Baloche -

Offerings are worship.

Humility handed over.

We give what is worthy to the One who is worthy.

Considering the first Christmas and it’s participants, each had a different part.  Each had a different gift to offer.  Each, however, gave more than just some thing.  Each gave themselves.  Each laid their pride at the Child Messiah’s feet as well.

The shepherds gave the offering of their witness.  Shepherds were cultural outcasts.  Ancient nobodies.  Near the bottom of the social ladder.  And stuck out in the fields with the smelly sheep.  Their story is in Luke 2:8-20.  While keeping watch over their flocks they were terrified by an angel of the Lord who appeared with God’s radiant glory to announce the birth of the child Messiah.  A heavenly host chorus - hundreds or thousands of angels - followed, singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”  And these shepherds, overwhelmed as they were, hurried off to see baby Jesus.  What raises my questions is how they lowered their pride.  These guys who so much could have used a credibility lift, went out - at risk of sounding crazy & further damaging their reputation - and spread the news of the Messiah to anyone & everyone who would listen “and all who heard it were amazed.”  They risked the little they had to tell everyone about Jesus.    They gave the offering of their witness, an act of worship, laying down their pride.

Do I believe God worthy enough to tell everyone His message of love?  All the people I know?  All the folks I meet?  To offer my witness of Christ?  Trusting God with my reputation and the judgments of others upon me?

The Wise Men gave the offering of their work.  The magi or kings as they have been known, were astronomers from a far off place.  Matthew 2:1-12 tells their story.  The Bible doesn’t tell what their jobs were.  Were they professional astronomers?  Ancient college professors or professional sages of a sort?  Maybe they were independently wealthy and already had the means to make such a trip?  No matter their funding, the fact remains that they took a trip that may have lasted years to meet someone they didn’t know to give physical gifts worthy of a king.  They risked their lives along the way - ancient travel was dangerous without TSA or cell phones or dependable law enforcement - and in arriving they risked even more due to local King Herod’s murderous ways.  They risked everything for their work of finding the child king.  And, they sacrificed their ability to work & make income to provide for their own family needs.  Plus, they spent the income of their previous work to make the trip.  They gave the offering of their work, an act of worship, laying down their pride.

Do I believe God worthy enough to give my work life & my life’s work fully to Him?  Every minute?  Every project?  Every dream?  To offer my work to Jesus?  Trusting that all I do and all it earns will be enough to provide for my family and all God intends? 

Mary gave the offering of her whole being.  As a teenager betrothed - like engagement but more binding - to be married to an older carpenter named Joseph, she was surprised by an angel to learn of her pregnancy.  Luke 1:26 and following tells her story.  “How can this be since I am a virgin?,” she asked.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” told the angel.  Not by an act of flesh, but by the power of God she was a mother.  Mother to God in flesh.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  And, Mary answered in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”  She was willing to give everything.  Her physical body to carry, bare, and care for this child.  And if child bearing was not hard enough, and the nine months pregnant donkey travel and manger delivery didn’t make it harder, she would have this child in a cloud of suspicion due to the immaculate conception.  She gave her reputation.  She gave her community standing.  She believed God.  And so she gave her whole self as an offering, an act of worship, regardless of her pride.

Do I believe God worthy enough to give him my everything?  My life?  My control?  To offer my whole being?  Trusting the entirety of myself and my future completely to Him?

We don’t live in the Ancient Near East.  No donkey trips for census.  No camel journeys following stars for us.  But we sure have pride.  Selfish pride.  Posturing, self-righteous pride.  And we have communities of people who watch us.  And judge us.  Even today.  And we do allow our perception of their judgment, our concern for reputation among others, and that foolish pride of ours to hinder our obedience to our God and Father.  Our offerings become subject to self-righteous scrutiny.  Humility is hamstrung by pride.

Each of us must consider.

My witness.  My work.  My whole life. 

Do I trust God enough?

Do I love God enough?

Do I worship God enough?

To give Him the offering He desires.

The offering He is worthy of.

Even if it means laying down my pride.

Joy to You

How's your joy?  Really.  Are you joyful?  I mean it.

Joy check.  Right now.  Yes, you.  Let's check. No matter your circumstances.  Things going great.  Or not so much. Thinking you are more blessed than you deserve.  Or wondering what curse you inherited.

Luke 2:10 records, "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'"  Do you have joy?  Great joy?  You make up one part of the phrase "all people", don't you?  The angel meant you.  Me.  Us.  We.  Joy.  Really.  Joy.  No kidding.  It's right there in the Bible. God said it.  He meant it.  For real.  Joy.

And then the carol.  Not Scripture, true.  But meaningful to many of us.  A connection through verse & song. Memories mixed with melodies.  Visions of Christmases past.  Anticipation of eternity future.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Amidst all you are doing these days.  Making your list.  Checking it twice.  Have you left room for Jesus? Maybe you need to make room for Jesus.  He came to save you.  He wants to guide you.  He has always loved you. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' & believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," says Romans 10:9.  Take a minute to ask: Have I opened my heart to Jesus?

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Oh, I hope you are singing.  This time of year.  Christmastime.  Celebrating the of the birth of our King, Jesus. Even you non-singers.  You shower only singers.  You stick in the mud afraid to sing a note folks.  I hope you are singing carols.  Smiling.  Thinking.  Joyful.  For all God is & has done for you.  If you are not singing right now will you ask, why am I not singing the praises of Jesus?

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Did you know that when Adam & Eve sinned creation itself fell?  The perfection of creation was marred by sin. And the curse of sin came to earth.  Genesis 3:17-18 tells us so.  From that time until now, one sin has followed another. We can't help it.  It's our sin nature.  Yet, God brings us into personal realtionship with Himself - through his son, born to us on earth, Jesus Christ - to love us no matter our sinfulness.  We must ask in response: How do I spread the blessings of Jesus?

He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.

"The Word (note the capital "W", Friends) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One & Only (more capitals), who came from the Father, full of grace & truth," states John 1:14. Jesus is the Word of God to us.  God in flesh.  Living Grace.  Incarnate Truth.  He is full of both grace & truth.  I pray that you know both his grace & his truth in your life.  I pray that you can consider & live out this last question herein: How can I share the love of Jesus?

Open your heart.

Sing his praise.

Spread his message.

Share his love.

And about that joy check: How's your joy now?

Merry CHRISTmas, Friends!