"When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, 'Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about." Luke 2:15 ..."Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope." Gilbert Brenken
The Christmas Story. Whether it's known only as a pop culture 80's movie, or the biblical account that's given in Luke 2, we all have our own "Christmas story." What's yours? I'm thinking on that today. I'm thinking on all the Christmas times celebrated in my life. How many of them have ever really been centered upon the One who is and will always be the greatest gift ever given the human race? How many Christmas days have there been where I saw life through the lenses of the endless hope I have in Him, and how many were tarnished by my seeing only a hopeless end?
Most of us as children have wonderful memories of Christmas. Not every one was perfect by any means, but all in all, the memories are most likely good. Then we grow up, at least age wise. Life, with all it's problems, failings, obstacles and terrors becomes real. That's when what Brenken says confronts us. If we say we are His, do we really live as if we rejoice in the endless hope that is found in Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world? Is it our heart desire to "See this wonderful thing that has happened?" Do we long to experience all that He has told us about Him? Or are our hearts immobilized by our circumstances, our difficulties, and yes, our seeming impossibilities?
I have been a pastor now for over 30 years. I've shepherded congregations through more than 30 Christmas seasons. Who should know more about the endless hope, joy, and wonder that is found in Christ than a pastor. Yet to my great remorse, there have been too many seasons that I knew He was that hope, but I wasn't experiencing Him as such. Too many nights spent brooding over all that was not as I wished it to be. The ministry He had given me was not unfolding as I had hoped, indeed, planned. What wasn't, held my heart, not the One who was. Added to that were the times when my personal life was lacking those things I believed essential. What I saw as my lack held my heart. Not He who promises me He is all things. I had my own Christmas story, but it wasn't one which was filled with hope. It wasn't laying hold of His joy and peace. It was a Christmas story that missed Christ who is the story.
It's so easy to end up in that place. Our flesh is ingrained with an obsession with itself. When it has free reign in our lives, we'll never see Him in the midst of life. We won't join the shepherds in running to Him. We'll stay out on the hillside, brooding, frustrated, even angry. And we'll miss Him. We'll miss the life He calls us to.
Someone asked if we were leading lives worth telling stories about? God stories. Jesus stories. Those stories will never unfold sitting on the hillside, brooding over what we don't have and what we wish was. They are told by those who run to the King. Who are determined to see the wonder that He has promised us in Christ. Not only this Christmas, but this year, this life, where will you and I be found? On the hillside, or in "Bethlehem," in the presence of the King? We all have a Christmas story. You know what yours has been. Now, what will it be?