I'm a sentimental kind of guy, I know, I know that it usually doesn't show, but I like this time of the year with the Christmas music, the tv tear-jerker movies (I confess that I do need to wipe my eyes once in a while), and the decorations that brighten everything up in a celebratory profusion of colour and beauty. I love the focus on family and friends, the meals together and the evenings with a little wine and music and conversations with those close to us.
But what I love more is the challenge we get from God at Christmas. Think about it, Jesus left home to live with us, definitely a step down in living arrangements so God challenges me to live more simply, focusing on my relationships instead of a wish list of more stuff. Jesus came to us vulnerable and depending on Mary and Joseph to keep him safe and provide for him, I'm challenged to be more vulnerable with my family and friends and be humble enough to tell them that I really need them and God too. Jesus came to sacrifice himself and I'm challenged to be more sacrificial in my own life. Jesus came completely focused on God his Father and I'm challenged to be more focused on God my Father and what he expects from me; not even so much in what I do but more in who I'm becoming as his child. Jesus came and loved others and went out of his way to help others and make them feel like they really count and I'm challenged to do the same.
But there are many things Jesus did that I cannot; I cannot forgive my own sins, I need Jesus to do that. I cannot redeem myself from my slavery to the world and its values, from my constant search for gods that I can control instead of following only God the Father, only Jesus can do that. I cannot pay the price for my sins, but Jesus does redeem me and gave me his Spirit to help me keep my eyes and heart on God. For a long time this was something that I accepted as true, but nothing really changed in how I lived because it hadn't reached down into the heart part of me; that sentimental part of who I am. I was basically a nice guy, maybe a bit opinionated at times, sometimes a wise guy, but I always felt there was still something missing inside, that there was more to being a follower of Jesus than being kinder and caring for others.
It's through my children and their struggles that God finally reached into that emotional part and did the real change that comes from accepting Jesus in my heart instead of just my head occurred. I need both the head knowledge and the heart knowledge of Jesus to make a real change in my relationship with God and my understanding of who God is.
My children have the disadvantage of having to put up with me :), but it's more than that. God brought three of our children into our home through fostering and they have had to overcome the neglect and even abuses that they experienced before they became part of our family. They've all wrestled with big emotional and spiritual stuff, but I've watched how in all their struggles, they've made their way, or are making their way to Jesus and finding strength and even hope on the way. In their walk towards Jesus my own heart was reached as I see more and more that Jesus came also to turn our world upside down and bring not only forgiveness, but healing, reconciliation, meaning, purpose and depth to our lives. What I've found is peace no matter what is going on, and a deeper trust that we are not alone as we go through life. I am able to accept those verses that talk about God working all things for our good, even the hard things like watching our children wrestle hard with relationships and life because I know that Jesus came so that we never need to walk alone, and that includes my children.
I get all this out of Christmas, how about you, what do you get out of Christmas?