When Jesus was born it heralded the arrival of the person of God ... God with us. Religion until then had been the institutional mediator between God and Man. Jesus said, "no more, I will write my law on your hearts, I will put my spirit in you, anyone who simply believes will not perish".
Unfortunately we have continued to be blind to this message: the institutional expression of the worlds churches continues to confuse people outside the faith, preventing them from seeing Jesus. Just look at one secular portrayal here (link) - does that offend you? It's an honest comment by someone outside the church ... the sort of person who'll enter our doors once or twice a year.
Jesus lived 1 Corinthians 9:18-23 (link). Jesus brought a fresh expression (link) to those on the outside of religion, Jesus bypassed religion. Let's freshly express ourselves because:
"Christmas: its the announcement of the end of religion"
Now go out and really celebrate Christmas ... Go overboard
(Cross posted from http://tinyurl.com/d2yl6f9)
I've had some tough events this year ... people I know have died, others have struggled, friends have faced huge challenges, and pressures can be huge. How do we approach Christmas when things are tough?
I found the following reflection to be helpful.
"When difficult circumstances come, we -- let me be honest here, I -- can be fearful. So today I was helped by imagining I was one of those shepherds that night when the angel suddenly appeared. (You can review the story in Luke 2)
With my fellow shepherds, at first I feel terrified! But after hearing the angel announce the good news of the birth of the special baby, I find myself rushing into town with my friends to see the baby. As I stand there seeing that newborn, I think about the character of God: He is faithful to keep His promises, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. And I am strengthened to face life's harshness, uncertainties.
Coffee/tea thought: What does God's faithfulness to keep His promises mean to me, even in uncertainty and stress? Let me give Him glory as did the shepherds, and thank Him for loving and caring for me. (Ref: Luke 2.8-20)"
If you share my irritation of jaded jingles in shops, on radios, and "on hold" telephone calls, here are some things that might keep it all a bit more fresh -- free music, fun videos, and some quotes to make you think.
Use it as a seasonal health supplement to take joy and seriousness, and turn it into serious joy ... for all the right (s)(r)easons.
Free download music: (for a limited time only)
- Jeremy and Kimberly Sorensen - eclectic and light: http://noisetrade.com/sorensenmusic
for fans of Ben Folds, Michael W. Smith, Five for Fighting, Jenny and Tyler, Jim Brickman
- We.Are.Royalty: http://www.noisetrade.com/weareroyalty
for fans of David Crowder Band, U2, Daniel Bashta, Jesus Culture, Hillsong United
- Over the Rhine - sublime, laid back and bluesy: http://noisetrade.com/overtherhine
for fans of Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, The Civil Wars, Bon Iver, Billie Holiday
- Mixed artists: http://noisetrade.com/merrychristmasgoodnight
for fans of Coldplay, Regina Spektor, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Celtic
- More mixed artists: http://www.noisetrade.com/pastemagazine
for fans of Sufjan Stevens, She & Him, Great Lake Swimmers, Damien Jurado, Rosie Thomas
- Sleeping at Last: http://www.noisetrade.com/sleepingatlast
for fans of Nick Drake, Bon Iver, Christmas, Radiohead
- Sufjan Stevens: http://noisetrade.com/sufjanstevens
for fans of ... Sufjan Stevens
Flashmob Hallelujah Chorus: http://youtu.be/SXh7JR9oKVE
Journey of Faith Christmas Flash Mob: http://youtu.be/jfXnbFzAtYI
Brandon Heath - Bend: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WDPY6LNX
Brandon Heath - Jesus in Disguise: http://youtu.be/5AXD3Xq6Z6U
Quotes both light and deep
Seems pretty futile. Arguing with God that is. I mean, if God is God and all that it implies, what grounds do I have to argue with him? And isn't arguing simply me trying to assert my authority over him? As in trying to say "I'm right, you're wrong"? Hopeless ... he's always right.
In 2011 some researchers had two chatbots interact with each other (link). A chatbot is a computer program designed to hold a conversation with humans (do you really know who you're talking to on the internet?). The conversation between the two chatbots quickly descended into argument, interestingly, about God! The researcher's theory was that "when these chatbots have conversations with humans, the humans are argumentative"
So yes, we're argumentative, because we don't like to be wrong, and we don't like the way things happen. You or I wouldn't be the first to want to argue with him. Job did: "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God" [Job13:3]. David's psalms are also quite good examples of someone arguing with God.
Its not as if either Job or David ever really thought they were right and God was wrong, but both expressed their need to be honest to God and argue from the point of view of who God is, what God has done, and God's promises. And both, in time came to realize that God's way, however troublesome a time may seem, is nonetheless the best way. "Best" of course is open to definition ... but here means best for God's purposes ... does a soldier fight for his own interests, or does he trust the commander? God says to Job "Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?" [Job 40:8]
In the same way my arguments with God are really about me arguing with myself. I know God is right, but unless I argue through my case I fail to understand why I'm wrong. So I argue with God and say "but you said ...", "you once did ...", "you told me ...", "you promised ...". And in going through this I grow in understanding until it makes sense; tragedy and comedy alike, it all finally makes sense. It's a process, and misery and pleasure are the lot of our lives, but above it all God stands perfect in rightness.
It takes courage to argue with God, not because of what God might do, but because of what I might discover.
Charles Spurgeon said in a sermon: The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down where I have listened to the brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third and then for a fourth and a fifth until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly ["Effective Prayer," Charles Spurgeon].
When we don't argue our case we end up being wedded to the naivety of tradition, sunk in our human perspective of self importance. But we must be wedded to a God who is paradoxically the same yesterday, today, and forever, while constantly on the move!