What was God Trying to Say?

By Keith Miller | December 21, 2009

Keith, the stores have been full of Christmas decorations and the radio has been playing Christmas carols, songs and ads for it seems like forever.  Addressing Christmas cards, shopping for gifts for my family and friends—somehow I’m getting worn out with it all.  Do you have any ideas that could help me keep my focus on the real meaning of Christmas while inundated with wall to wall sound bite advertising?

Grapeleaves

As I began to reflect on your question about the almost urgent need to recover the real meaning of Christmas in terms that can break through the noise of the commercials, I let my mind slip into an imaginative memory world of midnight masses, children’s Christmas Eve services, the music of open-mouthed choirs mingled with deep resonant voices reading Christmas scriptures.

In my imagination, I saw again Scrooge, Christmas Past, and the transforming power of Tiny Tim on crutches. I saw tired, irritated parents wrapping presents.  Dancing in their heads were not sugar plums, but doubts about “Did we do enough?” or “Did we do too much?” And last, fathers alone at 2:00 a.m., trying to put together complicated toys or doll houses by sparkling Christmas trees, surrounded by layers of brightly-colored presents of all sizes and shapes.

And finally, near dawn in the blinking darkness of the tree lights, the small wooden figurines of the manger scene on the mantle seemed to come to life.

What had God really been trying to say on that first Christmas night?  Had the cultural acid rain of our anxious holiday energy-storm dissolved God’s purposes?

As I recalled the familiar biblical passages, I began to see that the story didn’t look “religious” at all.  It was a wonderful love story about a lovely, still teenaged young woman and a vigorous young man, who were engaged to be married.  But their romance was interrupted when Mary was visited by an angel named Gabriel.  His message—totally incredible to Mary—was that God Himself was going to make an extended personal appearance as a human being.  That would have been startling enough—since it had never happened before—but Gabriel went on to say, “Mary, you have been chosen by God to be the mother of a baby that is somehow going to be conceived in your womb by God!  And the baby’s name will be Jesus.”

This baby would grow up to deliver a remarkable, loving message—a personal introduction to God, an offer of intimacy with God.  In some strange trans-rational way, Jesus would be the Love, the Introduction, and the Intimacy—in a living person.  The Truth about Life was to be conveyed through a multiple progression of living, healing actions from Jesus to people, and from those whom He touched to others.

In a mysterious way, the Christmas story of this young couple seems to have been God’s way of saying that He Himself—as well as His Message—will come most fully into the human scene in the context of loving family, of intimate community.

From this unknown young family, God would send Himself forth in Jesus as a message of love and an invitation to all people everywhere to invite the people in the whole world into an intimate relationship with Himself as Father and with them as His children.  God sent Jesus to make sure that down the ages we would both hear His unique message and offer of caring, and in an unprecedented way, actually meet God personally in the behavior, the teaching, the personal sacrifice, and most of all in the character and personality and self-limiting love of Jesus.

And finally, as this reflection/waking dream is ending, I realize that something has happened to me while I pondered the story of Jesus’ birth and let it come close to my heart.  As I listened to and saw the Christmas story through the magnifying lens of prayerful imagining, it felt very different:  less like an olivewood manger scene, more down-to-earth, personal and interactive—yet paradoxically, more holy somehow.  I am seeing in a new way that God’s gift of His healing, restoring power is available to you and to me, now, through Jesus.

The question of Christmas for me is:  Even with His help can I dare to risk being really authentic and loving and to walk confidently in God’s way—as Mary and Joseph did that first Christmas—not knowing the outcome?

So my own response to your question of what you can do to help keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas is this:  as you and I realize that God may really love us, we can look for people who are not feeling loved, and who may not be able to “afford” Christmas.  We can then find some personal way to help them in whatever way we can to have a better Christmas day than they would have had you not asked your question.

Jesus, thank you for showing me in living color how I can reflect God’s authentic, loving way of life.  Life’s stresses pressure me toward taking control, hiding from reality, and medicating my pain with purchases, food, and competitive present buying.  Thank you, thank you, that your healing power can restore us all to the authentic, loving way of living for which we were made.  As we think about the story of your entry into humanity that we will celebrate in a few days, help us to dare to risk reaching out and being more authentic and loving—even in our own families—even though we don’t know the outcome—if we take a step out of ourselves for You.  In Jesus’ Name, amen.

…God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.  The power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.”

Luke 1:26-32, 33-35, The Message

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on What was God Trying to Say?
Free Resources
Weekly Devotional
Taste of New Wine
Bookstore

Shop By Category

Your Shopping Cart

Your cart is empty.

Free Weekly Devotional

Subscribe to receive Keith's free weekly devotional!

Your privacy is protected; we will never sell your name.

Testimonials

It is Keith’s genius to take very elusive and complicated material and make it understandable… His own rigorous honesty is a living mirror which can inspire us… The Taste of New Wine is today as important as it was, when it was first published—in fact, I feel it is more relevant than ever… It has increasing importance for the Christian life in our time.
Henri Nouwen
Taste of New Wine