MERRY CHRISTMAS! Today is the last installment of this week’s Backwards Christmas Story. Hope you have enjoyed it.
Backwards Christmas Story Part 1 – The Question
That stable was crowded.
I don’t usually like crowds on the best of days.
But our visitors. They came with good tidings.
They didn’t smother us. But they simple adored the little boy in my arms.
You should have seen it.
The smell in the barn was replaced by the sovereignty of God.
It’s hard to capture that essence in words.
But among the hay there was a holiness.
You could reach out and touch it.
Those kings that bowed down.
Those shepherds that stood in awe.
My son, Jesus, was going to change the world.
I cradled God in my arms.
I pondered all of that in my heart. I would never forget those moments next to the inn among the bundles of hay.
The church is packed.
As it usually is on a Christmas morning.
Filled to the brim with regulars, holiday makers, and the once or twice a year visitors.
There are people who are convinced about Jesus.
There are others who come with questions.
There are content people. There are restless people.
But this morning. They all sit together.
The preacher paces in the back room. He is nervous. Even though he has stood at the pulpit countless times.
The verse he wants to share is not a conventional Christmas one. But He feels convicted that God wants it spoken. So he will.
An exhausted wife sits in the eleventh row with her hubby and two kids. As she sits and soaks in her surroundings. The rush from earlier that morning slowly vanishes. As she looks across to her husband she adores and those precious children of theirs, a joy fills her heart.
The heroine sits with her three-year-old daughter on her lap. That little one plays with her mom’s hair.
A lone candle flickers in the front of the church. The mom can’t help but feel gratitude for the “Light of the world” that is born into everyone’s circumstances. She knows and believes: Jesus, really does understand. ‘Amen’, she whispers.
There is a man who brings along his constant companion named ‘Stress’ with him. He sits in the second to last aisle. His family didn’t join him. They’re still sleeping in on this Christmas morning. But he needed to be here. His eyes scan the room. He notices a banner in the front on the right hand side. He reads the words embroidered on it:
For to us a child is born to us a son is given,
And the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Prince of Peace.
As He read the word ‘peace’, the strangest thing happened. His “companion” seemed to get up and disappear.
In that moment, he felt as if God touched him. He then offered a prayer of forgiveness and commitment. My family needs God. We need His kingdom in our lives.
A hush falls over the church. The pastor walks out and greets the church. In true form, the band start off with JOY TO THE WORLD. But have you ever paid attention to the words:
“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,”
Isn’t that just so beautiful? There can be wonder with God’s love. Amen!
I’m sitting there in that church. Over all these years I have been to loads of Christmas services. I’ve often gone through the motions. I know the drill. I know the spoken words. But I need something more. I need to fall in love with my First Love again.
I’m filled with a sense of expectation. I am stubborn. I don’t want this to be yet another religious act.
I want God to say something to me. Something so fitting.
The pastor in front starts off saying he wants to read a verse that is not a conventional Christmas one; however he believes it is still fitting for us today. Please turn to Galatians 5: 1 he asks:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
He was right. That freedom of Christ. Wow! That’s what I so desperately need.
I have been burdened by my own disbelief.
I have been burdened by the opinions of others.
I have been burdened by religious acts.
I have been burdened by negativity.
I have been burdened by predictability.
I have been burdened by fear.
I have been burdened.
But I CAN BE SET FREE.
The question he posed to us: Will you allow Jesus to set you free?
DISCLAIMER. Final thought or question: How about you? What have you been set free from? Which character in the story do you identify with?