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Great Expectations for Christmas
by Marilyn Adamson (used with permission)
Christmas is loaded with expectations, isn't it? Christmas shopping, decorating and entertaining. Typically we knock ourselves out trying to make it the "perfect" Christmas. And year after year we end up with the same empty feeling, like Christmas wasn't as personally fulfilling as we'd hoped. Why is that?
Let's look at a few of our expectations.
Picture yourself seated at a beautifully decorated Christmas dining table. Cheerful Christmas music plays softly and a twinkling Christmas tree stands in the background. This is the time of peace on earth, good will toward others. Now picture your family and relatives all sitting together around the table. Do you picture them…arguing? Sometimes, in spite of our efforts, people knock heads, even at Christmas.
Perhaps you’re hoping that this year your children will be cheerful, patient and thoughtful of others. Well, if that’s how they are from January to November, you might have a shot at it in December. Or you might find them pulling ornaments off the Christmas tree and opening presents saying, “I already have this.”
Somehow we think the perfect Christmas is happening in someone else's house, not our own.
Christmas is packed with expectations. Life isn’t perfect and our expectations can do us in. Rather than be driven by a list of expectations, there is a better way to approach Christmas. There’s a way to find it much more personally satisfying.
First, let’s look at why we have Christmas…other than increasing the U.S. Gross National Product, of course. Christmas is celebrated because of the birth of Jesus. Now the whole world doesn’t celebrate my birthday. Why is he so special?
Well, Jesus said he was God. If you look at Buddha or Confucius or other religious leaders, often it was their followers who declared them “God” long after they were dead. In contrast, Jesus clearly and repetitively told people he was God.
Jesus said he could give people eternal life and forgiveness for their sins…credentials which clearly belong only to God.
His communication was also unique. Jesus didn’t teach people ten steps to achieve holiness, or personal disciplines to reach God. If you want to know God, Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
To give credence to his claims, Jesus performed blatant, irrefutable miracles. People born blind could see. The lame who were stuck begging were now walking. The mentally ill could think soundly. We’re told, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages…healing every disease.” His miracles were known by all.
Who is this Jesus?
Jesus did more than heal people. Five thousand people were given dinner with food that Jesus instantly “produced” for them. Another time Jesus made a violent storm on the sea cease immediately. The people in the boat “were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”
Jesus plainly said who he was…
The Bible records, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him…he called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” His audience understood the message.
Jesus so thoroughly equated himself with God that he said “to know Him was to know God (John 8:19, 14:7). To see Him was to see God (12:45; 14:9). To believe in Him was to believe in God (Mark 9:37). To hate Him was to hate God (John 15:23). And to honor Him was to honor God (5:23).”
Now I should interject here, this is being written by a former die-hard atheist. I thought people believed in God simply out of need. I was stunned when someone showed me clear, scientific evidence for God’s existence, and equally impressive logical, factual evidence for Jesus being God.
Here’s a quick example of the proof which shows Jesus was correct in saying he’s God. Throughout the Old Testament there are over 300 specific predictions about God’s Savior who would one day come to earth. It would be like listing specific predictions today about who will be president of the United States 500 years from now. It’s written down what town this Savior would be born in, to what family, where he’d grow up, what miracles he’d do, how he would die, etc. Jesus’ life perfectly fulfilled all 300 predictions! The odds of any other person fulfilling even 8 of those predictions are 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.
Other proof? The Jews, knowing Jesus said He would rise from the dead three days after His death, decided to post a Roman Guard of 10-14 trained Roman soldiers in front of the tomb. Wasn’t quite enough. Three days later the tomb was found empty.
Part of enjoying all the celebration of Christmas is understanding who was born that day. The Christmas carols suddenly take on more punch…” Joy to the Word, the Lord has come.” Jesus was not another prophet, or great teacher. This was God revealing himself to us.
Why did Jesus come to earth?
You know how life at times can seem “lite,” pointless, without real meaning? Even at Christmas we can go through all the motions, but life can still lack depth. Jesus wants to give us a more meaningful, abundant life.
Secondly, he came to offer us a genuine relationship with himself. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”
To be honest, a lot of people try to approach God the wrong way. They try to earn God’s acceptance by living a “good” life. And then they reason with him. “God, I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve tried to be kind and generous. I’ve gone to church. I’ve prayed. And I’ve never murdered or cheated anybody.” Sounds good.
But Jesus said we need to know what his standards are. Just how good a life would we have to live? Jesus said,
Well, let’s be brave and see how perfect we are. Imagine trying for an entire day to be… patient. I’d have to skip coffee and settle into a near coma. But let’s assume you’re alert and you’re going to be patient in all circumstances for one entire day. You’ll be patient with customers, other employees, your boss, patient in traffic, patient with your family.
Let’s pretend you tried so hard, and you actually were patient all day. Wouldn’t it irritate you that the people around you were so impatient? If I were concentrating that hard on being patient, I know I’d be very self-righteous and judgmental toward all those other rude, impatient people. And my self-righteous attitude also would not line up with God’s standard of perfection. The Bible says we sin…no surprise to me.
But what did surprise me is that the Bible says my sin has separated me from God. It’s like an impenetrable wall. The Bible says,
Number one on Jesus’ agenda for coming to earth was to pay for our sin. The Bible says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us….”
It’s like the woman who was arrested on a drunk-driving charge. The judge ruled, “thirty days or $1,500 bail.” As she was agonizing over this, the judge stepped around to the front of the bench, pulled out his check book and paid the $1500 fine. Why? The judge was this woman’s father. As an honest judge he couldn’t overlook his daughter’s guilt. But as a loving father, he paid the penalty for her.
If we could have gained a relationship with God based on our living a good life, Jesus didn’t need to come to earth and he didn’t need to die on a cross for us. But out of tremendous love for us, Jesus was tortured, whipped, nailed to a cross and died of slow suffocation. Three days later he rose from the dead. Having done so, he now offers us complete forgiveness and a relationship with him.
I used to think having a relationship with God is something that just “happens” to a person or it doesn’t…like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. But actually it’s a personal decision.
God offers us a relationship with himself, and it’s our decision whether or not to respond to his offer. Jesus put it simply,
When we respond to his offer and ask him to come into our lives, we begin a relationship with God that lasts eternally. The Bible says,
Whatever is going on in your world this Christmas, there is no greater gift you could give yourself than to receive the One who came to earth for us. He offers you complete forgiveness, a relationship with Him, a more abundant life and eternal life. As long as we trust in ourselves, our own good life, God will remain distant, and we remain separated from him by our sin. He asks us to empty our hands of our efforts and receive him and his gift.
I’d like to give you the opportunity right now to ask him to come into your life. There is no greater offer, nor more important decision you could make in your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him….”
I’ll help you put this into words. You could say to him,
Unlike other possible relationships, if you asked Jesus into your life right now, he promises never to leave you. Jesus said, (speaking of us as his sheep), “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
I found that one of the best ways to get to know him better was to read the gospel of John, which is the fourth book of the New Testament, in the Bible. You’ll be amazed. It seemed like he was speaking straight to me, answering my questions, like an intimate chat over coffee. Also, you might find it helpful to look for a church where the Bible is taught.
There is no greater joy at Christmas than coming into a relationship with Jesus. Too many times we have worn ourselves out, driven by our expectations to have the “perfect” Christmas. It’s a set-up for disappointment.
All of the shopping, decorating, entertaining never fully meets our deepest longings. For Christmas to be special, we simply need to receive Jesus’ gift to us…a relationship with him. Knowing him brings great meaning and enjoyment at Christmas, no matter who knocks over the Christmas tree.
Would you like to know Jesus?
You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here's a suggested prayer:
If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, pray it right now and Christ will come into your life as He promised. If you invited Jesus Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life.