Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!
This is such a special season, and a lovely way to end each year. We all slow down a little from the work-and-school rush, spend time with our loved ones, and reflect on some of the most important things - like gratitude for the blessings we have received, and the wondrous fact we can express that gratitude to a caring Father who loves and provides for us.
As Christmas Day draws near, let's take just a moment to reflect on why this day is such an important remembrance...
Recently, I had to drive down into Houston for a meeting. Our little town of Huntsville does not have traffic jams; in fact, we rarely have to stop at a light for more than one cycle. When the college students are out on break, you can actually get anywhere at all in less than ten minutes. Of course, Houston is not like our little town. I am not sure there is ever a time with only light traffic in such a huge city, but this day was much worse than normal. I was so grateful that I did not have a deadline to be anywhere, because the freeway came to a complete standstill for an hour and a half. Evidently, someone had been driving under the influence of some substance and had caused a horrific accident. Thankfully no one was killed, but as I sat and waited, I began to think of the real-world cost of just one person’s one day of selfishness.
The traffic was stopped across all four lanes of the interstate for a seven mile stretch. Conservatively speaking, that would be roughly 5600 cars and the people inside of them whose plans were impacted by the wreck. Even accounting for just one person in every car, and assuming that every one of them made a modest $10 per hour, that would total $84,000 lost as they were stuck waiting. But what about other costs - who might have been on their way to a much-needed job interview and missed it? Who might have been rushing to the hospital, or to help someone, or to catch a flight?
This brings up two very important points.
Sin is terribly costly. The example of a traffic accident shows a picture of what selfishness does. It causes great damage to oneself and others with far-reaching repercussions. Causing that one wreck is certainly not the only selfish thing that person had ever done, but just look at the effect of one day's worth of selfish choices by one person. What could decades of sin cost, in both material and spiritual currency? Not just money or work lost, but spirits crushed, bodies abused, minds wasted, hope lost - the Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
The truth of the matter is that each of us is born with that same capacity for a lifetime of selfishness. The almost eight billion of us alive today combined with all of those who came before us continue to wrack up an enormous debt of costly, devastating sin.
Many, many people do not know or believe that each of is sinful and responsible for our own sinfulness. But not knowing and not believing are not qualified excuses. This would be like not knowing or believing that you owed income tax each year. The debt is real, and one day a settling of accounts must happen. Which leads to the next thought...
Someone has to pay the price.
Who can possibly afford to pay for this costly sin, which separates each of us from our holy God? The tempter thought he had a foolproof plan in offering the forbidden fruit to mankind. As a result of that awful Fall, all of us are impacted by sinfulness and selfishness - and therefore none of us can be with God forever. On our own, the best we can hope for is bleak eternal death to settle our debt.
CS Lewis describes this dilemma so perfectly in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a delightful children's book that I encourage you to read again if you have not lately. One of the children in the story has betrayed everyone in exchange for some enchanted candy, and now the horrible witch is rightfully demanding payment for the betrayal, and the price is the boy's life. His brother and sisters are devastated, but unknown to them is that the good King Aslan has a different plan in mind to settle the horribly real debt. In fact, Aslan offers his own life as payment in exchange for the boy's.
The witch ecstatically murders the king atop the ancient Stone Table, and she and all of her evil minions rejoice. This was better than they ever could have imagined. Now the great king himself was dead, and her wicked reign of terror could last forever.
But no. In the earliest hours of the morning, a tremendous shaking occurred, the Stone Table broke into pieces, and the body of the king was gone - or was it? Aslan soon came back to the children, very much alive, and explained all that had happened...
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."
And this is why we remember and celebrate the tremendous occasion of Christmas.
God is Creator and King of all things, and His holiness and justice are perfect. Our sin is awful and separates us from Him; our debt is real and terrible and requires our death as payment. Only one, perfect in holiness and without sin, could pay the price; a man who never sinned and who willingly gave himself for all.
On that first Christmas so long ago, a far more extravagant a gift than anyone could ever have asked or imagined was given. Jesus, the mighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was born as a tiny, helpless baby - not in a palace, but in a rude and smelly stable in a village few had ever heard of, God became man so He could offer Himself as the payment for our debt. How great is the love of God for His children! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
This week, as we stop to remember the first Christmas, may our homes radiate the warmth and love of God. As we give and receive gifts, may our hearts be full of gratitude and remembrance of this perfect gift of Jesus our Savior.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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