Sunday, December 21, 2014

More than an astonishing story ...

David Roher once wrote about how the advent of the motor home has made a lasting impact on camping and experiencing the great outdoors ...

"The motor home has allowed us to put all the conveniences of home on wheels. A camper no longer needs to contend with sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking over a fire, or hauling water from a stream. Now he can park a fully equipped home on a cement slab in the midst of a few pine trees and hook up to a water line, a sewer line, and electricity. One motor home I saw recently had a satellite dish attached on top. No more bother with dirt, no more smoke from the fire, no more drudgery of walking to the stream. Now it is possible to go camping and never have to go outside. We buy a motor home with the hope of seeing new places, of getting out into the world. Yet we deck it out with the same furnishings as in our living room. Thus nothing really changes. We may drive to a new place, set ourselves in new surroundings, but the newness goes unnoticed, for we've only carried along our old setting."

Some of the experiences in our lives should have a lasting impact, but we've become so addicted to our desire for comfort that even the most profound adventures and experiences sometimes are left unmined for their lasting value in our lives.

Take, for example, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Starting in Luke 2, verse 8, we have the story of an angel, with a supporting cast of a vast heavenly army, heralding the birth of Christ to some lowly shepherds. As we read on, we see their initial response ...

"When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, 'Let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger," Luke 2:15-16.

The shepherds were so moved by what they experienced that ...

"After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child," Luke 2:17.

So the shepherds told everyone about heaven busting loose with an announcement about the Savior being born, and about their finding the baby. How did the people respond to the gushing excitement of the shepherds?

"All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished ..." Luke 2:18.

That's it.

We don't read about Mary and Joseph being overrun with people who heard of the breaking news about the birth of the Savior of the world and wanted to come see the baby for themselves, or to come and worship as the magi would do some time later. The report is very simple: they were "astonished."

That's the same attitude experienced by millions (if not billions) of times each morning as people read, watch, or listen to the news and hear of astounding things happening in the world. They're "astonished" ... and then they finish their breakfast and go about their day. There's little to no lasting impact regarding the news they've received.

But that wasn't the case for the shepherds.

From fighting boredom and sleepiness to being startled awake with the greatest announcement to humankind ever, the shepherds didn't return to their flocks and just count sheep. That first Christmas had a lasting impact on them ...

"The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them," Luke 2:20.

Each year, families "deck the halls" with all kinds of decorations and practice a wide variety of holiday traditions, then they head out for the candlelight communion service, and then Christmas arrives. Presents, presents, presents! And finally, on New Year's Day, the tree is taken down, the decorations stored away for another year, and it's back to work.

As usual.

There's no lasting impact.

They may have been astonished at how many presents they got this year, or how much they were able to devour at the Christmas meal (feast), or how big the kids are this Christmas. But "glorifying and praising God" all shepherd-style?

For some, Christmas has a lasting impact. It does so for those who understand that the adventure of new life in Christ begins when the comfortable patterns of the old life are left behind. The addiction of longing for comfort is broken, and what they have experienced in Christ is so indelibly imprinted on their hearts and minds that life itself becomes about glorifying and praising God! The decorations might be put away for another year, but the life of worship flourishes on into a New Year.

Is Christmas just an astonishing story to you? Or has the Christmas story developed in you a life of glorifying and praising God?

Scotty

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