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JR. Forasteros - December 25, 2013
12 Days of Christmas
From Series: "Road to Bethlehem"
Shepherds with their sheep. Three kings bearing gifts. A new mother, her husband and their tiny baby, resting in a manger as a star shines brightly overhead. We've all seen the nativity scene hundreds of times. But that peaceful scene hides adventure, surprise, hurt and hope. Each of those persons gathered at that manger walked a different road to get there. Join us this Advent season as we learn their journeys to the manger. Each person's story is an invitation for us to consider our own paths. What does your Road to Bethlehem look like?
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If you’re anything like me, by the time Christmas Day finally gets here, you’re pretty worn out, and not all that sad to see Christmas leaving. I get why that is, but it’s still sort of sad. Over the 2,000 years we’ve been celebrating Jesus’ birth, the Church developed a tradition I think is really awesome: We make the Christmas celebration last for 12 days (yes, that’s where the song comes from). Beginning tomorrow morning, we spend 12 days feasting and partying and celebrating that God has moved into our neighborhood, that God’s light shines in the darkness of the world!
In other words, tonight isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning. Much like the Christmas story itself: Jesus’ birth isn’t the end of the story. The Nativity scene isn’t the end of the story.
The baby in the manger isn’t the end of the story. It’s only the beginning of a much larger story.
That story, of course, is what happened when God became human. When the uncreated creator entered into creation. When the infinite became finite. When God moved into our neighborhood.
Jesus wasn’t just born. He lived, taught, healed, died and was raised from the dead. His whole life was one long gift to us. The early Church celebrated this gift of Jesus in a song preserved for us in Philippians 2. It rhymes a lot better in Greek, but the song announces:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had:
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This song celebrates Jesus as the ultimate gift-giver. Because Jesus spent his whole life – from this first moment in the manger until his death and resurrection – giving himself for the good of those around him.
And Paul challenges us to “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
To celebrate Christmas is to become a giver like Jesus is a giver.
This is challenging to me because I’m not a very good gift giver. I tend to give people gifts that I would like, but that they’re maybe not so thrilled about (usually it’s a book because I’m a huge nerd). My wife Amanda, on the other hand, is awesome. I’ll be wracking my brain trying to figure out something they’d actually enjoy and coming up with nothing, and Amanda will say, “What about this?” and it’ll be the perfect gift for them.
So maybe you’re like me – you’re not particularly good at thinking of a gift that fits just right for them. If so, let me share a guide that has made a huge difference for me. It’s called the 5 Love Langauges – it was developed by a psychologist named Gary Chapman (I’m sure some of you have heard of this before). In short, Dr. Chapman has observed that humans – at least in our culture – tend to give and receive Love in 5 big categories. They are:
- Physical Touch – everything from handshakes and hugs to more intimate stuff.
- Words of Affirmation – hearing praise – the more specific, the better!
- Gift-giving – What we’re all going to be doing tonight and tomorrow
- Acts of Service – doing something kind (like the dishes or free babysitting or something)
- Quality Time – just spending time free of distractions with the other person
When you think about giving the gift of yourself to another person, giving yourself the way Jesus gave himself to us, these are a great guide. My wife, for instance, receives love through Quality Time. So I want to make sure over the next 12 days to leave my phone in the other room, shut off my laptop or tablet, and be present with her. She will feel much more love that way than when she opens the gift I got her.
Speaking of which, I like to show affection by giving gifts. So she makes it a point to enjoy the gifts I buy her because she understands they’re coming from a place of love.
What about the people in your life?
Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends? How do they receive love? Chances are if you spend a few minutes thinking about it (or even ask them!) you can figure it out.
So here’s my challenge to you on this Christmas Eve: give the gift of YOU, of your presence, of your love. Give the way Jesus gave. And do it for 12 Days.
Christmas begins today on December 25, which means it ends on Sunday, January 5. Will you commit for the next 12 days to find one way ever day you can show your love to someone else in your life?
Let’s keep the joy and celebration of Jesus’ coming going for the next 12 days. Let’s begin the new calendar year with a spirit of love and giving! Because Christmas isn’t the end of the story. It’s only the beginning!