Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facing The Spirits During Christmas...

Ebenezer Scrooge was confronted about his miserly, self-centered life by the Christmas Spirits.

And in the 2000 movie release, The Family Man, Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) is likewise confronted by - whom? an angel? the Spirit of Christmas? - and he's given the chance to find out what a "real, down-to-earth" life feels like. Oh boy.

I trust you've seen the movie, so I won't go into a long synopsis of the plot. (If you haven't seen it yet, crawl out from under your rock, add it to your Christmas viewing list, go rent it, and you can thank me later!)

I'll just say this: what happens to Jack Campbell - being transported Scrooge-style from his penthouse bed on Christmas Eve into a parallel universe - would be an equally troubling experience for anyone during this Christmas season, but an experience that might do some good.

If the Spirits of Christmas - past, present and future - were to visit you, what powerful or painful moments from your life would you see? And based on your current trajectory, what does your future look like?

Let's approach this question from the "fly-on-the-wall" vantage point. To whom among your family or friends would you love to see this happen? Who do you know that needs just such a "wake-up" call?  Is there a Scrooge in your life to whom you would love to play Marley (while still alive, of course!)?

The biblical account of Christmas ought to be as disturbing to us as a visitation from Marley or the Christmas Spirits.

The angels come to announce the birth of the Savior...but the story is very different from the way we would tell it if we were writing...

God chooses folks of humble origin to parent the Christ child. The angels make their joyous announcement of God's peace and good will to society's least and last (the shepherds were the social outcasts or their day). All of this happens in out of the way places, in "fly-over country" as we call it today. It only comes to the attention of the political and religious leaders later, when Jesus is sought by magi from the east, when they alert a jealous, counterfeit Jewish King Herod of the birth of the true "King of the Jews."

Herod was nervous because he knew he was a phony. And the political and religious leaders around him also knew that their power was based on fraud and deceit. God comes into our world and shines his light into our comfortable, self-centered lives and says, "Is that it? Is that all you've got, Jack Campbell?"

We like the baby Jesus at Christmas - harmless, gentle, sweet. But when he is King Jesus he's a bit unnerving - he intends to be on the various thrones that we've created - political thrones; cultural and religious thrones; the "money, sex and power" thrones where we sit, planning our next conquest.

God isn't out to squash our fun. But he knows that there's something so much better for us - like Jack Campbell - but we will need to make some radical adjustments in our lives. We will need to let go of what seem to us like good or even great things in order to make room for the best things, God's gracious gifts. God can only place his gifts in open, empty hands.

And, like Jack Campbell, you will have to "walk by faith" for a while. At first this new life, with God in control, will feel like a strange fit, like someone else's clothes. It won't impress like the old wardrobe.  But it's much more comfortable, much more durable, and it is more "suited" to our new life (okay, one bad pun!).

So when the Christmas Spirits show up, it can be scary. It feels very threatening, it IS very threatening. King Jesus intends to transform the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our Lord. And the kingdom he will start with is the one you are presiding over today.

Stay connected,

Pastor Mike

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