Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Perfect Christmas Gift

If you were God, how would you introduce yourself to your creation?

I’d be 27 years old, a perfect size 8 with flawless complexion, no white hair and an IQ of 145.

I would not show up as a baby, completely helpless and totally dependent upon two people who arrived in town after all the motel rooms were taken and had to sleep in a lean-to. Or a cave.

Good thing I’m not God.

But why a baby?

It’s simple, really. God wanted to become a human, and there is only one way to become a human and that is to be born.

Humans can’t get away from sin. It’s an inherited trait – in the blood, so to speak. God chose to become a human so he could stop the endless cycle by paying man’s long-overdue sin account himself.

So He played by the rules and was born. But he bypassed the blood-born pathogen of sin through birth by a virgin – the virgin who conceived through the seed of God, not sin-filled man. The embryo she carried developed its own blood system, as do all human embryos, and since the mother’s blood does not mix with her baby’s, the baby inherited no sin.

A perfect human.

This god-man lived a sinless life, so when he was killed, his sin-less blood was undeserving of death, and in the eyes of God, that blood paid the penalty of sin and washed away mankind’s debt.

A perfect sacrifice.

Only God could come up with a plan like that.

But He didn’t just pay and run. He conquered death and lived again to walk beside us in our own life-living.

So, you see, Christmas is really all about sacrifice. Maybe that’s why red and green are such prominent seasonal colors: the blood-red ribbons that flow from our evergreen boughs remind of us the Perfect Life that gives the rest of us eternal, ever-life.

If we accept the gift.

And who could refuse a gift like that?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Unanswered prayer

Have you ever prayed for something so long that when it finally showed up you didn’t believe it?

Zechariah did. He was a Jewish priest in 1st-century Judea who prayed for years that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child.

This man knew the miraculous stories of barren women giving birth to such giants of the faith as Isaac and Samuel. But they had lived decades earlier, not in the modern times of the Roman Empire, and so far, no tiny fingers had ever grasped his own.

Maybe he just quit praying. Or quit believing. Or maybe he figured that God’s answer was “no.”

And maybe that had something to do with his reaction when an angel stepped up and took his breath away with news that Elizabeth was going to have a baby boy.

I wonder what I would say to an angel like that – if I could get the words out. If I didn’t pass out. Hopefully I wouldn’t say what Zechariah said: “How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18 NIV)

Hopefully the sudden and inexplicable appearance of an unusual figure telling me about something no one knew but God would, in itself, make a believer out of me.

But for whatever reason, Zechariah doubted, and because of that doubt he ended up speechless.

A few months later the same angel told a teenage girl that she would bear the Messiah for whom Israel waited. This girl Mary said what the more experienced and well-versed priest should have said: “OK. I am the Lord’s servant.”

Young Mary had a question, yes, but it wasn’t one of faith, it was a point of understanding. She knew how children were conceived and she knew she was still a virgin. And when the angel explained, Mary said, “OK.”

I want to be like Mary. I want to say, “OK, God,” when He sends an unbelievable event my way. I don’t want to recite every reasonable obstacle to my faith and say, “I don’t know about this, God.”

I want to say, “I’m your servant, Lord. Whatever you say.”

But the truth is, I’m more often like Zechariah – knowing God’s faithfulness and still wondering how He will do the impossible. And that’s why I’m encouraged by God’s choice of this man, the man whose first spoken words after months of silence were praise to a faithful God.

Yes, he knew the history of his people; yes, he had grown weary in his faith. But God had not given up on him, and He knew that Zechariah was the one to teach this child of “the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77 NIV).

God gives all of us opportunities to say, “yes,” whether sooner or later. What will your choice be this Christmas season?

What will you say?