We’ve spent the past few weeks eating sweets, visiting with family, shopping, wrapping & exchanging gifts, on top of planning & executing what are likely the most complex services of the year. Now the hustle & bustle has come to a close of the year: what’s next? Well, the birth of Jesus changed everything, so we should expect our celebration of the holidays to change us, as well.
Life after Christmas is a life lived near to God. I remember as a teenager feeling utterly hopeless & alone, as though no one knew me or could want to know me. But Jesus was God-with-skin-On, born to the lowliest & most common. He didn’t see it as belittling to spend his first days in a feeding trough in a backwoods town which would’ve remained unknown if he hadn’t been born there. Emmanuel – literally “God with Us” – is not ashamed to live among us. God has come near, & it changed EVERYTHING!
But not only Jesus’ birth changed everything, but Jesus’ LIFE… I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this – I currently live in the South, & we Southern, Bible-belt Christians can often be “over-spiritual.” I’ve heard it called “Pie-in-the-sky-By-and-By”: Jesus died on the cross so that we could go away to Heaven, & what God is concerned with now is that we go to church, & Sunday school, study the Bible, pray, & have a “quiet time.” The rest of life is the humdrum necessary stuff we just have to tolerate, to do those important things, & all of us are just holding on for when we finally can leave this place & go away to Heaven. But that lens is distorted: the picture is false.
Luke 2:52 says that Jesus – God with Skin On – “…increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Consider that: God – as a human being – thought it important to participate in the act of “growing up” – in “learning” – in “maturing”… Jesus wasn’t merely born to die – He was also born to LIVE, & in living He showed us what true life is! Jesus redeemed the day-to-day – God showed that even the simple act of growing up – of learning – of work, sleep, & play – that they are all important. Before knowing Jesus we think of religion as a Sundays & Wednesdays thing, but life after Christmas is a life lived seeing even the mundane as an act of worship!
Also, the death of Jesus changed everything…
“…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” – Hebrews 9:22b
In the Old Testament the primary blood sacrifice was a sheep, an animal not that unlike ourselves. In fact, Jesus compares us to sheep more than any other animal. It goes all the way back to Adam & Eve when God killed animals to cover their shame, but what we don’t realize is that for the sacrifice to be legitimate, the Bible asked that we somehow identify with the animal: this was to be personal. The animal wasn’t only to be in perfect health, but beloved – like a pet. You were supposed to feel the Sacrifice – a very physical reminder that sin comes at a cost: sin kills. Sin, quite literally, is bloodshed, whether the results are immediate or delayed.
Then Jesus comes into the picture. In the Gospel of John 1:29, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, immediately recognized him, saying of Jesus; “LOOK! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World!” When Jesus laid down His life, the need for sacrifice ceased. Jesus now stands as our “Go Between” between God and us, and as Hebrews 7:27 says: “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily … since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Being a man, He could die to pay for man’s sins – being God His life was of infinite value – by Christ paying for our sins, no sacrifice would ever have to be made again. IT IS FINISHED!
Do you carry a guilty conscience? There is no need! Your sin is as far as East is from the West, & because of Jesus no more sacrifice needs to be made, not even the sacrifice of your own happiness upon the alter of “I’m so bad – I need to be punished.” Let me put it this way, because of Jesus, God smiles on you. And there is absolutely NOTHING you can DO to earn that.
Lastly, the Resurrection of Jesus changes EVERYTHING…
For one, it means that death is not the end. The promise that we have is that Jesus is the “first-fruits,” & that we will be “raised like Christ.” That incredible resurrection body that Jesus had – that could eat food, & yet walk through walls? Yeah – we get one of those!
And consider this: the resurrection means that Jesus was right! Those things he taught? VALIDATED! It was like the Universes’ stamp of approval on the life & teachings of Jesus. Worried about whether or not you can trust Jesus? HE WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD. People who were dead for several days, and then suddenly aren’t dead anymore – they have a perspective on things I lack, namely having been dead, & now not being so! We can have confidence in Jesus because of the resurrection. And do you know what the Bible says about confidence? “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:19-23
What I notice of first importance here is that we have a ‘Great High Priest.’ Most of you are probably thinking, “I didn’t know I NEEDED a ‘Great High Priest,’ so what’s the big deal?”
I was made to be God’s worshiper, but instead – left to my own devices – I choose to worship myself & my own pleasures. But Jesus embodies perfect Worship in true, selfless obedience to his Call. With Christ at our side, we can enter God’s presence. Not only that, but we can enter boldly – ‘in Christ’ we are not just ‘tolerated’ by God, as merely Christ’s friend, but loved as Sons and daughters – we are adopted into God’s family!
The most horrible, unjustified death in history was the most beautiful, life-giving event in history. It gives new meaning to the Biblical phrase, “God works all things for the GOOD”!
And death is not the end. In 3 days, Jesus conquered death, & it is the same with ours – he conquers our death. Now, this is just the beginning – this life is the forward to a great series of epic novels, & the life we live now lays the groundwork, hinting at the huge plot-twists to come – great things the divine author has in mind that are too great for us even to imagine.
As we start 2017, live all of light in light of Christmas, not simply leading songs on Sunday, but living worship 365 days a year:
- God is near
- Every moment is an act of worship
- God smiles on you
- We are children of the King & we have open access to Him whenever, wherever.
Christmas has come & gone, but it’s truth changes EVERYTHING… Have a Happy & Blessed 2017!
Shannon Lewis is “The Worship Community Guy“. Passionate about helping others respond to God, & training people who are passionate about the same, Shannon also blogs at SaintLewisMusic, where you can grab his free eBook, UNSEASONED: How to see Godly Growth in an Inexperienced Worship Team.