This time of the year never gets old.
There is a reason that we prepare… and come… and celebrate the birth of Christ year after year. It truly is the greatest story and reality ever told.
I recently came across this quote in one of the readings that I love.
“Great things do not get boring with repetition. Only petty things call for variety and need to be changed quickly for something else. What is great grows greater still when we repeat it, and we grow richer, and become calm, and free.”–Navid Kermani
Every time we live again into the Christmas story of Christ… it grows greater when we repeat it. We then grow richer, calmer, and freer! How powerful! How true!
Every time I personally come back to the birth of Christ, I am captured again by its glory and majesty.
As I have reflected on the birth of Christ among us this year–particularly through the Gospel of Matthew–three elements have stuck out to me about how we as a church might better live into the Jesus story.
1) Expect unexpected grace (Matthew 1:1-18). God’s grace came into the world in the most unexpected way imaginable. It came in the form of a baby boy born to a virgin teenager… while simultaneously part of a lineage filled with saints and non-saints alike! God’s grace is for everyone… without exception. How can the church today offer it again in unexpected ways? For us, at First Church, one of those ways is through what we are calling a “dual expression” of church. We are simultaneously learning to live as both a gathered church where disciples are grown as people join us on our turf and a sent church where disciples are reached by joining them on their turf. This is a new form of church and a new way of offering God’s scandalous, wonderful grace. You have heard some already about this dual expression of church. You will hear more as we move into this next year.
2) Joseph simply–but powerfully–obeyed (Matthew 1:18-25). Somehow I have failed to give Joseph his full due in years past. But this year, I am blown away by Joseph’s simple, radical, faithful, powerful, silent, history-making obedience. The man never said a word! Yet he obeyed God to do whatever was necessary to raise God’s only Son on this earth despite the massive upheaval it caused in Joseph’s life. What does simple, powerful, almost unnoticed, faithfulness and obedience look like in our life? How might we be willing to obey and serve–even if unnoticed by others—for the sake of the Gospel? Is God calling you to take the next step in
Disciple’s Journey? Commit to a ministry opportunity? Use your job for ministry purposes? What will our response be?
3) The Magi (ie. wise men) sought out the presence of Jesus and brought Him significant gifts in response to His presence (Matthew 2:1-12). How intentional are we about orienting our lives to seek out Jesus? How often are we seeking to make the journey to worship Christ? We live in a world where even the most committed Jesus followers worship in gathered church settings on a less and less regular basis. But when we fail to intentionally make the journey to worship Jesus with others, we are missing out on His presence in a way that cannot be made up any other way. Additionally, we see the Magi intentionally bring their treasures to Jesus in response to His presence among them. What treasures might we offer? What extra gift might we give as the year comes to a close? What might it look like in the next year to fully commit to making the journey to worship Jesus with others an indispensable priority on a regular basis?
Which of these elements strikes you First Church? How will you respond? Will you join in the greatest story again? To experience God’s grace and love more deeply, more powerfully, more freely?
This was not a story that we were intended to appreciate from afar. It is a story meant to be lived up close and personal–over and over again… for the transformation of the world. Let’s live the story First Church… again. Like Mary… like Joseph… like the Magi… may we too experience the scandalous grace of God and share it abundantly in a world searching desperately for it.
May God use us in the ongoing Jesus story, however God sees fit. And may we be willing to join it.