We all hope for something. We hope for a better job, a bright future for our children, early retirement, a long, rich life.
Did you know that when you hope, you are modeling God’s character?
Let’s take a look at the Christmas story as an incredible example of God’s hope.
By today’s standards, Mary is a girl. A teenager at best. Perhaps a high school student. She’s engaged to be married. She’s never been a wife. She’s never raised her own children.
Joseph is the man to whom she’s engaged. We don’t know much about him. He’s not a rich man. But a man with skill in a trade. A man who comes home and shakes the sawdust off his jeans and washes the sweat off his face. Who has callused hands from his work as a carpenter.
This is the couple chosen to raise the Son of God.
Not a King and Queen
Not the president and the first lady
Not William and Kate
Not even Brad and Angelina
Just ordinary Joseph and Mary.
This is the couple God has chosen. This is the couple in whom God has placed his hope; who will raise the Son of God, the Lion of Judah, the Savior of the world, Immanuel, God with Us.
A young girl who has no experience in raising a child herself. Whose child would be doing homework before she herself graduates high school. And some guy who, until an angel sets him straight, seriously considers walking out on her because the child she carries is not his own.
God certainly knows how to create a situation that requires hope. Not just a situation that requires Mary and Joseph to place their hope in God. But for God to place his hope in them.
And God places his hope in you as well. Every talent you possess, every day you have been given, is an opportunity for you to fulfill the hope God has placed in you.
Hope is not wishful thinking. It is trusting in the promise of God. That he has a future and a plan for you. God has placed his hope in you. What will you do with it? Something to think about as you begin your week.
We all want that perfect gift to give away on Christmas. We all want to feel safe when we are out in a crowd. How can we combine those two wishes into one experience? By shopping at Wal-Mart of course!
As a group of eager shoppers was gathering around a crate of discounted Xboxes an unknown woman spewed pepper spray into the crowd, apparently in an effort to gain an advantage to nabbing one of the games. She remains unknown because everyone had their eyes closed after being nailed in the face with pepper spray. I wonder if the woman who used the pepper spray brought it with her or saw it on sale and then suddenly came up with the plan to use it. Whenever she came up with the idea, it may have worked.
According to police Sgt. Jose Valle, “The woman got away in the confusion, but it was not immediately clear whether she got an Xbox.” (via Huffington Post) What? Let me get this straight. A woman discharges pepper spray into a crowd of shoppers, and is able to grab an Xbox, go to the nearest cashier and pay for it? Didn’t that look weird to some people? Then again, those whose eyes were still able to see, were looking elsewhere.
It seems that during the entire melee, the store remained opened and other customers continued shopping. I tell you, these shoppers are really focused this year! I know this is an overstatement but one group of people is running around in chaos trying to wash off their faces and sooth their eyes from extreme pain while the rest of the shoppers in the area continue their frenzied shopping.
The Huffington Post also reported that this, “was the only major violence reported at a Southern California store involving Black Friday Thanksgiving holiday sales.” The only MAJOR violence reported? You mean there was other violence? Just not major violence? Good gravy. What’s going on in our department stores?
I didn’t get up early and go Black Friday shopping this year. But after reading about some of the stories from today, I think next year I will go out. But not to shop. I think I will go to Wal Mart, grab one of the chairs from the camping section, get something to eat from the food court, and simply sit back and watch the show. I’ll wear some protective gear too. Call me mad, but that could be very entertaining.
Jesus didn’t talk much about pepper spray and shopping etiquette, but he did talk about loving your neighbor, sharing your resources, and generally being a kind person. That includes not taking advantage of others, helping others in need, and I’m pretty sure that if any of the disciples brought pepper spray to fend off the crowds Jesus would have said, “whoever lives by pepper spray will die by pepper spray.” (At least he said that about the sword to his one of his companions in Matthew 26:52.)
I don’t know if Jesus would even go Christmas shopping. First of all, that’d be pretty interesting, buying gifts for other people on your birthday. Nah. He’d be too busy telling people to give away their possessions, and probably restoring the vision of those who went shopping and lost their sight. I think the rest of us could open our eyes and see the real meaning of Christmas too if we weren’t so focused on those low prices.
Xmas is Even Easier to Spell
Saw this church marquee online. Am I to understand that I should celebrate Christmas because it’s easier to spell than Hanuk.. Hanuck.. Hanneka… oh forget it, where do I hang my stockings?
Is this the right message the church should be giving? Celebrate Christian events because they’re easy to spell.
If “easy” is the goal, what does this church do with concepts like “sanctification,” “justification,” the “eucharist,” “appropriation,” “Christology,” “soteriology,” “hermeneutics…” I’ll stop there because my brain is starting to hurt.
Personally, I think being a Christian is hard. We can never seem to get it right. The Apostle Paul never seemed to get his life in order. He said, “I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15, NLT). Even Paul, one of the Church’s greatest leaders, struggled.
You may think me mad, but I don’t think the church should tell people being a Christian is easy as a tactic to get you to celebrate Christ. Jesus didn’t. He said just the opposite. "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way.” (Matthew 7:13)
Then again, nothing beats a good marketing campaign. Maybe next season, I’ll try to outdo Cross of Christ and have a sermon series on Xmas.