Saturday, December 24, 2016

CHRISTMAS IS JESUS

Tomorrow morning, people all over will gather, open their Bibles, and turn to Luke chapter 2.  Most of our Christmas mornings begin with these words…
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
I spent the month of December anticipating the Coming, the birth of our rescuer, Jesus Christ.  Christmas is all about His birth.  Easter is all about His death.  But I find that reflecting on His death, His sacrifice, and His life, heightens my anticipation of His birth.  It actually changes Christmas.


The birth of Jesus was the start of a 33 year journey
that ended on a Friday that we call Good.

A baby, placed in a wooden box.
A man, nailed to a wooden cross.

I've spent the last couple of weeks in this non-traditional Christmas passage...

Jesus stood before Pilate, the governor, who asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Yes, that’s right.”  Then, when the leading priests and the older Jewish leaders made their accusations against Jesus, he said nothing.  So Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear all these charges they are making against you? Why don’t you answer?”  But Jesus did not say anything, and this really surprised the governor.  Every year at Passover time the governor would free one prisoner—whichever one the people wanted him to free.  At that time there was a man in prison who was known to be very bad. His name was Barabbas.  When a crowd gathered, Pilate said to them, “I will free one man for you.  Which one do you want me to free: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  Pilate knew that they had handed Jesus over to him because they were jealous of him.  While Pilate was sitting there in the place for judging, his wife sent a message to him.  It said, “Don’t do anything with that man.  He is not guilty.  Last night I had a dream about him, and it troubled me very much.”  But the leading priests and older Jewish leaders told the people to ask for Barabbas to be set free and for Jesus to be killed. Pilate said, “I have Barabbas and Jesus.  Which one do you want me to set free for you?”  The people answered, “Barabbas!”  Pilate asked, “So what should I do with Jesus, the one called the Messiah?”  All the people said, “Kill him on a cross!”  Pilate asked, “Why do you want me to kill him? What wrong has he done?”  But they shouted louder, “Kill him on a cross!”  Pilate saw that there was nothing he could do to make the people change.  In fact, it looked as if there would be a riot.  So he took some water and washed his hands in front of them all.  He said, “I am not guilty of this man’s death.  You are the ones who are doing it!”  The people answered, “We will take full responsibility for his death.  You can blame us and even our children!”  Then Pilate set Barabbas free.  And he told some soldiers to beat Jesus with whips. Then he handed him over to the soldiers to be killed on a cross.  {Matthew 27:11-26}
This Christmas, my thoughts keep going to the one who lived.
The one who was set free.

Barabbas.
A thief.  A murder.
An all around bad guy.

The murderer lived.
The Messiah died.

I find myself dreaming of what became of Barabbas.
How did this guilty man feel when he was set free?
Did that moment change him?  Give him purpose?
I so want to know that Barabbas didn’t, for one second, waste his pardon.
I so want to hear that Barabbas spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel of grace.  But I don't think that's what happened.

And as I'm feeling frustrated and disappointed in a man I don't even know,
God quietly whispered to my heart...
Did that moment change you?  Did it give you purpose?
My cross was your cross, Jackie.  Are you wasting your pardon?
I took your place so you could live.  Who are you living for?

And that has messed up my Christmas.

We spend so much time making Christmas into something that it was never meant to be.  The world wants Christmas to be about a baby, and presents, and Santa, and an elf.  The world wants us to make Christmas about us.  But when you remove the distractions and set time aside to focus on the Coming, it messes you up.  When you take time to remember the humble birth ended in a violent death because of my sins and your sins, it changes you.  When I picture myself as Barabbas, standing next to Jesus, and guilty me gets to go free, it's just too much.

Christmas is love.
Christmas is grace.
Christmas is Jesus.

His birth, His life, His death.

They are all connected.
They are all important.
And they were all motivated my love.



Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
{Philippians 2:5-8}

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