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‘Tis the Season! ~ John 1:24-34

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462 (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Christmas. What’s it all about, anyway? Is it stockings and toys? Is it stress over lack of money and time to buy and do all the things we want during the holiday season? Is it a beautifully decorated tree and lights on the house? Is it a man in a red suit that magically descends the chimney, leaves an abundance of gifts, and then magically ascends again? (When I was a boy we had no chimney; I always wondered how Santa was able to get into our house)! In the American tradition, Christmas is all of these things. Sadly, for many, this is the extent of the Christmas holiday.

The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29

Interior, St John the Baptist Church - geograp...

Interior, St John the Baptist Church – geograph.org.uk – 1096768 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Christmas is much bigger than the secular traditions of the holiday. Christmas is about Love. It’s about a Love so big that our human minds cannot fully grasp it. God in His Word reveals this Love. Here, in this passage of Scripture, John the Baptist tells us why this Love came to earth. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). We need help; we need redemption. That redemption comes only through the Child of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge; I enjoy my decorated home (my wife is quite talented), giving and receiving gifts, and gathering with family and friends. But those things pale next to the birth of my Savior. As a wise person once said, “Jesus is the Reason for the season.”

May your Christmas season be filled with love and joy!

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. As I enjoy the holiday season, let me always remember and celebrate, first and foremost, the Holy Birth that is the centerpiece of Christmas. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Christmas Preparation ~ John 1:19-23

1-08-06 christmas tree 011

1-08-06 christmas tree 011 (Photo credit: takfoto)

Like me and my family, I’m sure you’ve begun your Christmas preparations: decorating the Christmas tree, shopping, making travel plans, baking goodies – all of the activities that bring us joy as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. As we work through these annual rituals of preparation, it is easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really all about, and the most important preparation of all can sometimes be shoved into the background as we make ready to celebrate with family and friends.

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 40:3-5

Scripture tells us that we must prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmastide. It’s not referring to decorating trees, or shopping, or baking cookies. God tells us in His Word to prepare for the coming Savior. John the Baptist lived this preparation just before Jesus’ ministry.

(John the Baptist) said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet ?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” ~ John 1:23-27

John’s message to the world in advance of Jesus’ ministry was a message of repentance. Jesus was about to enter the scene, and the people needed to prepare to meet him by repenting of their sins and being baptized as evidence of their repentance.

Guess what? Nothing has changed.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I compose this essay, we are early in the season called Advent. The first season of the church year, Advent is a time of self-examination, confession, and repentance as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Just as in John the Baptist’s time, people are busy living their lives. Even in these days leading up to Christmas, we tend to live our daily lives with God in the background. We decorate, we shop, we party, and we plan – but do we stop amidst all of this to consider what it is we’re about to celebrate? Have you thought about Jesus’ birth, why He came and what His coming means to the world? If our first consideration of His birth comes during Christmas worship we’ve missed the boat.

Now is the time to begin considering these things. In what areas of your life is God shoved into the background? Are there sin habits that need confession followed by change? Have you done something that is eating away at you day after day as the shame separates you from God? Sin is at work in your life and in mine each and every day; we all fall prey to its siren song. Now is the time, ahead of Christmas, to acknowledge our sin, confess it, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. Give Him just a few minutes every day during this Advent season of preparation. If you’ll do that, you’ll find that your Christmas celebration is all the more meaningful as it embraces the true meaning and purpose of this wonderful holiday season.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this is such a busy time of year. Help me to not shove you into the background of my life as I live this daily busyness. Instead, show me where I’ve done wrong so I may confess, repent, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray – AMEN.

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