Christmas is known for lots of wonderful things. We must admit, there is something magical about it all. If you know the story or not, you simply get caught up in the season. JOY, PEACE, GENEROSITY, etc. It’s good isn’t it? It’s almost as if the goodness of Jesus, unknowingly leaks out into the world.
However, there are two SINs associated with this season as well: Gluttony & Pride. If we’re not careful, instead of appreciation and love, we feel entitlement and false expectations. Instead of gratefulness for what we have, we feel longing for what we don’t need.
Over the next few weeks, we’d love to walk through this season of advent with a healthy perspective of both the beauty in Jesus’ story & our stories. Jesus’ story of advent & arrival. Our story of becoming & really living out each moment.
Think about it – What is the best gift we can receive? PRESENCE. And what is the best gift we can give? PRESENCE.
In light of that, here’s the line we want you to remember this December:
This Christmas, try being present over perfect. Appreciate where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else. Be grateful for what you have and stop wishing for what you don’t have. Do what it takes to present to others, as Jesus has made himself present to us.
It’s the gospels that introduce this grand idea to us. It’s the gospels that let us in on Jesus’ plan to be present to us. The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus, moving into the neighbourhood (as Eugene Peterson paraphrases so well), and being WITH the WORLD…in the HERE & NOW.
A great place to start this month is at the beginning of the NT, Matthew’s gospel. Normally stories start with somewhat of a hook – something that interests us and grabs our attention to keep tuning in. Matthew’s gospel doesn’t really do this. He decides to start with a genealogy. Seriously? This is how you start the life changing account of Jesus? With a family tree?
You’ve all seen the commercials? Ancestry.com? For a small fee, you can know where and who you’re really from. There’s obviously some interest in this – the commercials have been running for quite a long time. I do like one thing about it: With this information, we might realize how closely tied we are to others. (not as different as we think) It also helps us see that we’re part of a larger story, one that led us to this particular moment in history
Back to Matthew’s Genealogy. Don’t fret…You don’t have to read it here (FYI…it’s long). But I want to point a few things out…
- This list provides context for the birth of Jesus
- It provides names of real people in real time that are a part, in some way to Jesus’ story
- There are people on this list who are considered giants of faith…others who aren’t as recognizable
- It took all kinds of people, over many years, to bridge the gap from Abraham…all the way to Jesus.
Why make this the beginning of a book you actually want people to read? Because the end of this family tree ends with one very important thing – Jesus is HERE!
Matthew wants us to know that Jesus’ story is about the arrival of a KING and a KINGDOM. And that King isn’t just a far off leader, but someone who makes his way to be right here right now.
Matthew also wants us to know that even though Jesus was perfect, his lineage was far from perfect.
- Jacob was a deceiver
- Rahab was a prostitute
- David…he made some serious errors
- Solomon…loved money and woman a bit too much
- Others in the list weren’t perfect either
What was more important was that Jesus was connected to a longer story, one that starts in Genesis and will eventually ends in Revelation. The point is this: a way was made for GOD to be present. Mathew gives us context for Jesus’ arrival.
Read a little further in this chapter and we get to a major announcement… (Matthew 1:18-23)
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Mary is to have a child, his name is Emmanuel, which means…GOD WITH US – God is Present.
Over the next few weeks we’re also going to talk about how we must be more concerned with being present, and less concerned with being perfect. Our history, like Matthew’s genealogy, isn’t perfect, but it did get us to this point – a place where God wants us to be. HERE. PRESENT. So just like Jesus, our story needs to be about Presence. He is our example of what it means to live in the HERE and the NOW.
Too often, we get so caught up with having every detail of Christmas perfect, and miss out on the most important part of this story: Jesus is present with us, and he calls us to be present with others.
It might sound crazy, but Christmas is about TODAY. It’s about Jesus being present TODAY. His work is about helping us being present to each other. Paul helps us see this in Ephesians 2:13-18,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Advent ushers in this reality…
- God is close
- He wants to make us close
- We have access to his presence
- His presence can tear down any wall between us and allow us to be present with each other
That…is a Christmas gift to the world.
Ask yourself these questions today and over the next few weeks…
- How do you long for, appreciate, and receive God’s Presence? (advent reading)
- How are you present to others in light of God’s presence in your life?
- Do you see your story as one that leads to you being HERE, right NOW, on THIS DAY?
This prayer might help us: Lord, to be rooted in place takes commitment to land, to people, to friends and family, to community and to the plight of our neighbourhoods. Being rooted (present) is no easy task, but you demonstrated this to us in your incarnation. Give us the courage to taking up the hard task of knowing you while standing in place. (and being present to others) Amen.