Ready for Christmas?

The writer to the Hebrew told his readers, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12: 1). And Jesus had the father about the lost son say this: “Quickly! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet” (Lk.15: 22).

There is a renewed interest in Christmas and that is commendable. Performances and performers are doing their utmost to cheer us up. Some cheers are a bit on the ridiculous and some even a bit mocking. There are moments when I do not feel we are on holy ground. I do not get the feeling that the birth of Christ is the most important event in history. Oh, there are emphases that we can have fun because Christ Jesus has taken care of everything we are guilty of. However, my tarnished life requires much more than mere faith to feel at home in Christ’s kingdom. Every time I think about heaven, butterflies cringe my tummy. The voice within me asks, “What am I doing that deserves that special place Jesus has promised? Has He left me no guidelines as to what He expects?” Even the Apostle of Grace had to conclude: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph.2: 10). The reason we were saved was, so that we do what is acceptable to God. And what is it that we do that is acceptable?

There are two things that should concern us. First, the gift of God’s grace came to us in the baby Jesus and his birth had no resemblance to our merrymaking and parties. Heaven rejoiced but the world was unprepared and the people of God no longer cared. His own people wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff (Lk.4: 29). The Gentiles have been more compassionate and generous with his name. He has become an economic phenomenon with a beneficial Santa Claus (in danger of being replaced by Frosty the Snowman) and a patron of religious architectures and arts. Jesus has inspired music and thoughts. He has filled the libraries with classics. In the midst of all that fanfare of glory that man has created, we have lost the real reason for why God loves the world? It is tragic that even Christians are regarding material success, as the presence of God’s good will toward man. Where do we find the real Immanuel? We still must find him in a baby, in an animal shelter and in Bethlehem. Is that not what Jesus asked Nicodemus to become? (Jn.3: 3).

Second, using grace to cover our endless transgressions is an excuse that will deny us entrance into God’s presence. God has always done what He promised to do in his Son and so has the Son. But, yes but, have we cleaned up our acts? The early Christians, just like we do, wanted salvation without doing anything. Christ has paid for our entrance at the door, but to get in we must leave our sins and obstacles outside. We must clean up and change before we get in (Ro.6: 1-4). Much is made about the return of the lost son. The merciful father embraced him and kissed him; but before he could let him into the house, he ordered that he be cleaned up from head to toe and clothed anew. Jesus will ask us, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?”(Mt.22: 12). This person challenged the requirement for the party and paid for it with being evicted. This party-breaker was just the opposite of the prodigal.

The people in Jesus’ day believed that celebrations and rituals would qualify them for heaven. They were known for reciting the Scriptures, making long prayers, keeping holidays, washing up before meals and giving even a tenth. How did Jesus respond to these people? It was with one word “repent” or you will perish (Lk.13: 5). It meant and still does, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (Jn.5: 14). And there is nothing worse than lose our salvation. But my minister told me that I could not lose my salvation. Friend, my minister is not the Savior. Jesus Christ is and He wants us to get on board now and not when the bell tolls. To do so we must clean up and dress appropriately.