Living Differently at Christmas

Will we have the heart of Jesus during the upcoming Christmas season? Will we be radical about Christ at Christmas as well as the rest of the year? “Lord, forgive me for indulging myself in the entitlement of being an American at Christmas. Forgive me for being so distracted from your mission this times of year.” We don’t get a break from following Christ because it is the holiday season. We must choose, either we are ‘all in’, or we aren’t.


“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” Luke 14:12-14 

As I put our pumpkin away a couple of weeks ago, I thought about all the money that we spend on holidays in this country. It was estimated that Americans would spend $6.86 billion dollars this year on Halloween, according to an annual survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation. For Christmas, however, The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and other goodies totaling more than $465 billion. Wow!

There are 3 billion people in the world who make less than $2 a day. If those 3 billion people work every single day for a year they will earn $730. We, in this country, spend almost that same amount of money for Christmas day on things that we don’t need.

“Its crazy!  But it becomes normal to us. I hope that we as believers take these things into account and live differently.”  – Francis Chan

Christmas is not about family

For some reason Americans have bought into the mistaken notion that Christmas is all about family. The story of Christ’s birth has nothing to do with family. In fact, Jesus was not even born into one. Mary and Joseph were not yet married.

Christ’s birth has everything to do with God and His amazing love for us. Christmas is about 1 person . . . . Jesus Christ.

Christmas is the beginning of the greatest love story that ever was or ever could be. It is our redemption story. Christmas is about the transformation from us being condemned in our flesh to being redeemed in Christ. The storyManger with crown of thorns in barn with light coming from above is beautiful; every part of it. He is an amazing God, and there was no better way to save us.

How do we repay Him for this wonderful gift and respond to this beautiful story? We become even more materialistic than we were the rest of the year. We become more distracted by shiny things and great deals.

We build up the idol of Christmas and shrink Jesus in the process. That is the ‘thanks’ we give to God.

We spend money that we don’t have on things that people don’t really want or need or could easily buy themselves. Being a good steward of money goes out the window until January.

It is like a nation-wide overspending frenzy. I buy you what you want, but don’t need, and you buy me what I want, but don’t need. It is a fool’s paradise.

What does Jesus want from us?


 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   Matthew 25:35-40


 

AMBOSELI, KENYA‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ – are we getting that? That is huge!

Most of our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles are not the ‘least of these.’ Why are we spending our time and money giving things to each other at Christmas?

How can we ignore the 3 billion people in the world who have nothing? How can we be so focused on ourselves and our families when half of the world’s population lives in poverty?

Orphan children in Africa don’t have food or a decent place to sleep. They can’t afford to go to school, or have proper medical care. They don’t even have clean water. They are alone and hopeless, and we are over here tearing through our piles of presents.

It doesn’t make any sense.

We have so much

I can’t think of the last time that I was starving, because I never have been. I can’t imagine being sick and not being able to just go to the drug store, or a doctor’s office, or the hospital.

I wake up everyday in my 68 degree bedroom and get up out of my sleep number bed. I have a refrigerator and pantry full of food. I live in a house that has way more space than we’ll ever need. I don’t have to get wet when it rains, or be cold on blustery winter days, or sweat in the extreme heat of summer. I don’t ever have to hunger or thirst.

Every single physical need I have is met.

We Americans, are the ‘greatest’, not the ‘least’. Therefore, we have a great responsibility to care for those less fortunate than us.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  1 John 3:17

Living Differently

If we are believers, then we need to live differently. Either we are living for God and doing what His Word says, or we’re not.

“Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.”
― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

We can’t go through the year listening to stories of the poor children in Africa, praying for the oppressed on missions Sunday, and forget about it at Christmas time.

We can’t just forget about ‘the least of these’ because it is November and the start of ‘our’ holiday season. Hunger and poverty do not take a break.

Following Christ is a full-time gig! If we are not living radically for Him, then what are we doing? Why are we going to our churches? Why are we singing our praise songs? Why do we call ourselves Christians at all?

God doesn’t just want our Sundays, or our tithe, or our prayers alone. He wants us to give Him everything.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21


God has been so good to me! The amount of love and grace that He has shown me is unfathomable. He has saved me from death, which is what I deserved. How can I not give Him everything?

How can I not be moved by His many blessings and endless mercy? How can I not respond to His loving ways?

“Freely you have received; freely give.”  Matthew 10:8

What if we all took what we normally spent on Christmas and gave it to the poor?

What if we gave all of our gifts to people that we will never even meet? What if we gave gifts to orphaned children halfway across the world? What if we gave it all to the downcast and lowly?

God, I pray, make me better than I am without You. Make me more like You. I give everything to You, Abba Father, because YOU are everything. Teach me to be humble and live a life of simplicity. Help me to separate myself from the materialistic things of this world. Change my nature to be more like yours.

When people look at me, I want them to see Jesus.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”   1 John 2:6

Watch the first 10 minutes as Frances Chan talks about gaining perspective about Christmas in the following video clip . . .

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