Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ultimate Christmas Party

'Tis the season for celebrations and parties! If you were planning the party of the century -- make that many centuries -- who would you invite?

MTV has a "reality" show, "My Super Sweet Sixteen." In this over-the-top commentary on American priorities, hip-hop royalty, Silicon Valley moguls, the NYC elite and others indulge their sweet and not-so-sweet sixteen year celebrants for the sake of the cameras. Presents, party favors, entertainment -- well, let's just say they are a far cry from the house bands that croaked and twanged their way through the most lavish birthday parties in my day. Extravagant. Obscenely so. And, of course, only the A-listers get an invite.

Sunday morning our pastor set my mind to daydreaming with a comment he made in his sermon. Honestly, I don't remember the comment. And, sadly, once my thoughts got to meandering, there's a good bit of his sermon I missed. But, I started thinking about "the first Christmas party." There were no sequined dancers or boa-draped starlets. No DJ or glowsticks. The crowds did not part as Jesus arrived, waving from the moonroof of a stretch limousine. As far as we know, not a single gift was exchanged that night. But one was given, and we have paused to remember that night each year, for two thousand years. Why?

The nature of the gift. In the most simplistic of answers, this Babe came to die that others might live. Of course, His life taught us about love and charity, grace and faithfulness righteous anger and holy living. But this Holy Child was God Himself, sent that He might be with us, that He might pay the ultimate price for us, that He might remain in us, and one day welcome us into His heavenly kingdom. He came to us, born out of the love and wonder of an awesome and skillful God -- His love for all of us.

The "original" guest list. Present that night were ordinary, and some less than ordinary people. Mary, a young bride, a virgin, and of humble situation. Joseph. We assume he was older, but had he expected this kind of drama when he'd entered into the marriage agreement with Mary's father? (Somehow we tend to forget Joseph was as "called" on this holy journey as Mary.) Shepherds, night watchmen for a bunch of dumb, dirty sheep; men who did not have access to proper bathroom facilities or even a roof over their heads. Livestock. Whether you prefer the image of a stable out back a crowded inn, or the first floor of a home, where animals were kept to warm those sleeping above, in all likelihood animals were present. (If not initially, quite possible the shepherds arrived with a few; shepherds usually kept the most immature and weakest of the flock close by them for safety and care.) Somehow, I can't imagine folks inviting some chickens or mules to their child's first birthday party, much less the delivery room. But this guest list was a who's who of the humble and the faithful; willing and obedient in their attendance to the One True King.

The recipients of the gift. You and me. That's right, at this party, guests receive the gifts! Perpetually! I can't speak for you, but I know how undeserving I am of this gift. Years ago my life was a mess, and I was tired of riding the roller coaster; clawing myself out of the pits only to find myself there again. I gave all my burdens to God and asked Him to help me fall in love with Him. Before I knew it, Scott had come along, bringing with him three wonderful children. The house in which I'd been living began to look like a home. I became more preoccupied with thinking of others rather than worrying about what others thought of me. I was so grateful for the many blessings and positive changes in my life, I had no choice but to acknowledge God, the Giver of all good gifts! For the first time in a long time I was actually excited about living; I had simply wanted to get on some steady ground, to be in love with God the way I knew He wanted me; but this? This was far more than I ever expected or earned. It could only be God. But that's the way He works. His gifts are unmerited, unearned, undeserved, and far greater than anything we can typically understand or desire. Like it or not, acknowledge it or not, we are all invited to become recipients of His Christmas Gift. And like the presents that sit beneath the Christmas tree, waiting to be opened, enjoyed, and employed with all the zeal we have within us, so is the Gift of the Child King to each of us.

I urge you to "open" His Gift this Christmas. Call on Him; ask Him to help you fall in love with Him. Get ahold of a Bible. Find a church. His is the gift that keeps on giving. Id love to see you at the party next year!

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