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Posts Tagged ‘incarnation’

Been in somewhat of a valley recently. The timing seemed to coincide with the shortening of days and long nights of cold darkness. I have never experienced seasonal depression but I can understand how the lack of light can affect a person’s outlook. We have also had more dreary overcast days than I remember from past winters.

I have gone through a year of testing in the area of doubt and unbelief, delving into the depths myself seeking to understand what spark generates faith and what extinguishes it.  I did not lose my faith, but at times felt like I was holding it in my hand, like the stone in this blog header, examining it from the outside – yet not letting go.

For many years in my past Christian walk I have read so many faith-building stories of the people of God in terribly hard circumstances – each of them called to be a channel for His love and truth.  I have read of Divine revelations, visions, miracles, and impossible conversions, by human reasoning.  I have traveled a long road in seeking people that walk this road of the REALITY of Christ rather than theories, and who hold to His precepts – not compromising them with allegiances to worldly agendas.  I have found no such “place” in my journey to date, but I have found a few shining stars.  People who hold fast and rise above the confines of the structure of “religion”, participating in its outer structures or not, truly touch the Life of Christ and walk in it.  Not on some super-power plane, as we are all very human, but in a path of true Faith and Love.

Two of these friends have walked with me daily through so many trials in the last few years that it brings tears to my eyes right now to even write about them.  They are my spiritual family and my “church”.  They are a gift to me from the Spirit like no other I’ve ever had in my life.  We are called to believe all that our Lord has said, even in the face of all opposition, but I believe that He did not intend for us to walk the road of faith alone.  Even if we experience isolation, we still have the knowledge and memories of others who walked with us, or He will bring others into our path at the time of need.  The unity of the Family in God in the essence of His Spirit – not our finite understandings of Him – is just that.  Family.  It’s not a theory, a philosophy, or a dogma.  It’s a fellowship of Love.

It can be difficult as the world cheapens everything that is connected to Christ – either in the way the Church itself presents Him, the world mocks him, and the skeptics scorn.  It’s far more effective to convince people Christianity is a myth than to try and stamp it out by force.  This past year I have felt overwhelmed that in my own country, I don’t know how to overcome the false image people have received of Him.  It’s almost like they have been inoculated with a killed version of truth, and are now immune to the genuine.  I know the Spirit of God can overcome even this, but to my natural mind, it looks hopeless.

I understand what the scriptures say about the foolishness of the gospel.  To follow Christ in this age, as in any before, we must stand to ridicule and opposition.  I would encourage every believer to know WHY they believe what they claim.  Many atheists have given it much more thought than the average Christian.  But I find that most people will simply find a way to believe what appeals to them.  They are not willing to test either direction, for or against.  We can immerse ourselves in one side of an argument and never dig into the evidence for the the side we want to reject.  Some people may think this is dangerous to explore outside the confines of your faith.  But I have not seen people deceived by true, honest investigation.  I have seen many people led away by an obsessive hunger for that which follows a deviant path – without being willing to ask, “Is this true?”  I respect honest searching, even if the conclusion is different from my own.  But I have found so few people who have truly done this.  I know the Truth stands on its own and does not need my protection.

As I am going through a dark time, gravitating as Peter did, to be overcome by the waves and storm rather than the Master walking on the water, calling out to me to follow – I had an amazing gift this morning.  It may seem silly to some – but when God gives you a sign, your heart sees it.  When I opened my eyes from sleep, a blinding light was shining in my eyes.  As I put on my glasses I realized that the sun was reflecting off the windows of a house quite a distance behind us.  We have a very large back yard and a creek runs in a culvert between our house and the next neighborhood.  The light was shining through the blinds in our room, which are usually closed down tight – but raised last night a little to do something with the window.  They didn’t get lowered back all the way.  I’ve never seen this reflection at any time in the three years we have lived in this house.  I had to take a picture and thank Jesus for His light, and a Christmas morning light to encourage me when I really need to be reminded how dark-dispelling His light truly is.

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But this isn’t all.

A few nights ago I was out for a drive which I sometimes do in order to have some time alone when I’m really distraught.  My emotions were swinging between grief and rage over a situation.  Sometimes you feel that you cannot keep walking the same path, yet leaving it would cause even more pain.  This circumstance is directly related to faith and unbelief, but I cannot say more.  As I made my way back home, driving through an affluent neighborhood, I saw a junk pile on a curb.  I can’t resist these no matter what my state of mind.  In fact, I find it therapeutic the way some people might find shopping at the mall running up their credit card debt.  I pulled over and tried to see in the dark.  Among some interesting finds, I saw a medium-sized white box which had something encased in Styrofoam, but I could not tell what it was.  Curiosity prompted me to take it home just to find out.  I discovered a fairly large snow-globe with a nativity scene in it.  It has a music box, and when I put batteries in it, discovered that the manger lights up.  Yes, this might be a pretty cheesy Christmas decoration, one that I never would have actually purchased.  They say timing is everything, and it’s the thought that counts.  The best Gift  of Light we have received continues to reassure us, guide us, and comfort.

Merry Christmas to my true Family in Christ.  May His light shine brightly on you.

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I recently sat in a living room with several other Christian women who meet once a month to learn more about healthy living.  As an icebreaker for this meeting, the hostess asked us to share how we keep things in perspective during the busy holiday season, as well as special traditions our families had.  I realized how this question would have stressed me terribly a few years ago.  When my turn came, I related that I did not have a great deal of experience yet, (long story) but we make an effort to give Jesus the gifts, to the “least of these”,  rather than go crazy on junk no one needs, wants, or remembers this time next year.   As the sharing moved around the room, one woman began to explain why they were not going to celebrate Christmas this year.  Her explanation wavered between sheepish embarrassment to dogmatic conviction about “what the Bible says.”  I know that conviction well.  No one knew what to say.  I knew what I wanted to tell her, but I also knew she would have to walk down that road to see what I see now.

You cannot ignore Christmas, no matter how hard you might try.  And oh did we try, for nearly ten years.  We came under conviction early on in our Christian lives that we were wrong to mix the worship of the one true God with traditions inherited from Paganism.  The desire for our worship to be pure before God sparked our search for the purest form of our faith, seeking to go back all the way to what we believed were our authentic roots.

I don’t blame anyone for coming to this conclusion about Christmas, especially if you do as I did and study out the history of the Church and various holy days.  During the Middle Ages, every month had some type of celebration adopted from various pagan cultures, renaming the days for saints, yet retaining the rituals of superstition and divination.  I did not view this as an honorable history, but rather a church compromising in order to gain allegiance and control of the masses.  In many countries around the world today you see a strange mix of traditional cultures with Catholic mass and rituals, mixing Jesus and Mary with whatever custom they can impress them upon.  Watching documentaries of other cultures, I personally saw no difference in what they were doing and our culture’s worship of Christmas.  (I felt the day was worshiped, not God, and still see this is the largest pitfall of our materialistic culture.)

I became a Christian after spending time in the New Age, so I was especially sensitive to avoid all references or participation in paganism, which at this time in my life, was perfectly right.  All I could see in Christmas at that time was compromise, which is why I don’t judge anyone for choosing to not celebrate this day.  However for me, my pure devotion quickly transformed into a source of superiority and pride.

Each year as the day rolled around we sometimes had a dinner with friends who shared the same conviction.  There was literally nothing else to do.  We would eat, play games, and lament how our families just did not  understand.  We personally didn’t mind being with our own families, but some did not respect our unwillingness to exchange gifts, which created awkward situations, so we tended to avoid them.  The irony of our non-Christmas dinner fellowships wasn’t lost on me.  I realized, we were still acknowledging the day, just in a different way.

When confronted with Christmas invitations and questions, I soon tried to not reveal that we didn’t celebrate it because the questions were uncomfortable.  Do you believe in Jesus?  Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?  It took too long to explain.  Even with the challenge it posed, this became an important feature of our unique spiritual identity.  To ignore Christmas is like standing against a tidal wave.

When our eyes opened to the reality of what we have in Christ, and we began to rebuild our spiritual worldview, we had to face once again the question; What do we do with  Christmas?

We did not have a new set of facts.  History cannot be changed.  And this was in fact our conclusion.  Try as we might to pretend it didn’t happen, Christmas has become the shining star of the entire year of holidays for the whole western world, and even in many countries which do not generally embrace Christianity.  As we looked at the issue again, we had to go back to the testing method which originally prompted our discontent with the Hebrew Roots Movement.  Fruit.  The unintended result of rejecting Christmas had only caused people to shy away and assume we did not even believe in Jesus at all.  Only atheists and cults deny Christmas.  (Here’s your sign…once again.)  If you are in fact wanting people to know about Him, this is counterproductive to say the least.  This only added to the ways in which we gave the wrong impression about Jesus, which were many.  The only things we had to show for our pious obedience were sheer boredom, miffed family members, and a distraction away from Jesus, not toward Him.

When we looked at  Christmas again, instead of seeing only paganism repackaged, we saw paganism redeemed, for the spread of the gospel.  Just as Jesus took us who were broken, sinful, idolatrous, rebellious, and prideful – and redeemed us for His glory – we realized He can also do this with a day if it pleases Him to do so.  The evergreen, the pagan symbol for eternal life, we see now as a symbol of their desire to overcome the problem of death, the problem only Jesus has the answer for.  The lights symbolize the true Light of the World, that comes in our darkest, coldest nights.  The day they dedicated to call back the Sun is now celebrated to the Eternal Son.  It seems maybe God intended for things to transpire the way they have.  Another miracle of Christmas is the success of its worldwide popularity, being presented as the day of Jesus Christ’s birth!  If I were a pagan, I would not see this as a victory for my perspective, especially since most people don’t give a second thought to where the traditions came from in the first place.

As I sat in church during what was arguably my first real Christmas, fully embracing Christ, I was so moved by the focus on the amazing miracle and sacrifice of a God who was willing to come and give everything of Himself to His Creation.  How could the Creator submit to a human birth,  just as we are born?  I related to Him in the birth of my own children and wondered what Mary must have thought as she held God in her arms.  Thankfully she could not fully see the days ahead.

Did He command me to remember His birth?  No.  But part of the beauty of the New Covenant is found in the love offering our life becomes.  In the Old Covenant people brought freewill and thank offerings when they desired to.  I believe Christmas, for a genuine believer, becomes a time to present a thank offering to Jesus for the amazing gift He gave, which only started with His birth.  We cannot stop at the manger.  Our minds are drawn to the cross, and finally a risen Lord, and His ever-present Spirit, the true Spirit of Christmas.

I found it was not possible to ever completely separate myself from this holiday, but I am thankful that I am now in a new relationship with it that blesses me and gives me a chance to bless others in many ways.  I don’t believe there is any other day of the year that provides a better stage to share the truth about Jesus, to find people with their ears and hearts a little more open.  I am sorry for the years I missed that, and for all the frustration we put our families through.  I have also seen how special this day is to those who don’t have the freedom to worship Him openly, and how they have risked their lives to honor their Savior on the day dedicated to His birth.  I would much rather stand with them in their sacrificial love of Christ, than were I stood before, in pride against those who have given all for Him.  What will you do with the day of the Son this year?

Thank you Jesus for being willing to come to our dark world and share in our human suffering and carry our humiliation.  Your love is beyond understanding, beyond anything mortal man in all his vain wisdom ever dared to hope for – a God that would come down and unite Himself with us, in order to save us.  Thank you that You are in us, and we are in You, forever! Maranatha!

Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni
© 2010.  Image used by Permission
www.TapestryProductions.com


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