My house smells like cardboard boxes right now. I would love to say it is because we have gotten a jump-start on our move, scheduled for DEC 30th, but that’s not true. The cardboard smell is a result of dozens of boxes filled with gifts that we have either received from our out-of-town family members or stuff we purchased on-line and had shipped for Christmas. I love Christmas, in less than a week our tree will have presents underneath and our stockings will be filled. Our kids will be so pumped about all the things that they will unwrap and I will again have matching socks and a bottle of cologne (both which will last me a couple of weeks). For such a fun time of year I find it interesting that the Lord has led me to study the book of Jeremiah. I am taking my time reading through it and am only 5 chapters in. Doom and Gloom are all over this book. Judah and Israel have both been unfaithful and faithless and the Lord is not happy. He is speaking to Jeremiah and in turn Jeremiah is to warn them of the coming judgment. There are four themes that are blowing me away.
1. God would rather ruin you than destroy you, and in turn we should rather be ruined than destroyed. (Jeremiah 4:27) In other words, we have made a mess of our lives with sin and unfaithfulness to God and we have a God who would rather ruin the mess we have made than to utterly destroy us. There is a huge difference. In context of the Christmas story God sent Jesus to “ruin” our lives, our mess. His message of hope and restoration can only be received when we are first led out of the darkness of our lives. (John 3:16-21) Jesus did not come as a warrior to destroy us; He came as a servant to ruin us. Jesus came to revolutionize our way of life and provide us a different way, one far different than the mess we had made without Him.
2. Wrongdoings and sin have serious consequences. (Jeremiah 5:25) Blessings are kept away and good is deprived because of sin. Christmas in our culture wrecks the felt reality of this truth. Santa is supposed to only reward you if you are “nice” but there are plenty of “naughty” people who will open countless presents on Christmas day. This time of year we all attempt to overlook past offenses and be decent with family and neighbors, regardless of the severity of wrongdoing. There is something beautiful about this, but it is also dangerous as well if we allow it to spill over into an unhealthy relationship to God. The peace on earth that Jesus came to bring has a prerequisite in order to enjoy. It is the much-overlooked prerequisite of surrender and repentance. Jesus’ presence is “good news” only to those who respond to Him and believe. (John 3:18) For many people the buzz of the Holiday serves only to numb them from their own reality of distance from God. In the busyness of the season, many will ignore the blaring reality…they are far from God due to their own decisions to remain in charge of their lives. As I read Jeremiah I am overwhelmed with what is being missed and what good is being deprived in the lives of those I love and serve because of sin.
3. Where sin abounds, the hurting are overlooked (Jeremiah 5:26-29) In some parts of our culture we get this right. I am reminded every time I enter a grocery store this time of year. Bells are ringing and a red bucket is near. The poor and hurting are among us, and this time of year, more than any, people realize this. Whether it is angel tree, the salvation army, or just people from the local church that adopt families for Christmas, people grasp that this season means more that just getting stuff. My prayer is that I don’t wait for the bells to place the hurting and poor in my mind, heart, and life. I also pray that my own desires and decisions never cloud my ability to care for the widow, the orphan and the poor.
4. Leadership Matters (Jeremiah 5:30-31) Before you jump to conclusions and think I am about to blame the government or the President for the reality of our own lives, take a deep breath and receive this. Those being blamed for the reality of the people’s distance from God in Jeremiah were none other than the spiritual leadership; the prophets and the priests. In our society we have to stop blaming the government for our country’s sin and rebellion from God. Though they haven’t helped matters, it is not the responsibility of our elected officials or our government system to keep us living lives honoring to God. This starts in our lives, our own relationship with Jesus. It also rests heavily with the leaders of the local church. Men and women who speak the truth in love and lead by humility and submission to the will of God must lead our churches and no one else. This is a huge challenge to me not only as a pastor but also as the priest of my family. In this passage the people love to be led the wrong direction because they have an out, they can blame the leader. I pray that the happiness of those I lead is not my chief end, but rather leading out of obedience and honor to Jesus is my goal.
I know this is kind of a heavy post around such a MERRY time but I am convinced that our time this season will be most JOYOUS when celebrated in LIGHT of the TRUTH. Love you guys and gals! Merry Christmas!