Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What is the spirit of Christmas?

Good morning friends. For many of you this is your last day of work until January 4th. I pray it will be a pleasant day filled with much joy and friendship.

Speaking of friendship, how much do you love your friends? Honestly, have you given it much thought or is it just as it is? They have always been there and you simply appreciate them? Do you have anyone in your life that you can say that you sincerely love? I know that at times I may sound like a broken record but our love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord is suppose to be deep and sincere. It can't be faked. It either is or it isn't. It actually has much to do with our revelation of our Lord's love.

I want you to think about your friends for a minute, the ones from church or perhaps they attend a different church. Could you imagine saying this about them:

Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (1 Thessalonians 3:7-9)

This was Paul's reaction to Timothy's report that the seed had taken root in Thessalonica, that everyone was growing and were thankful for Paul and Silas. I can understand Paul's joy but it is sometimes hard to fathom the love he felt, "For now we really live". Later Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "Love must be sincere". It is not a platitude but an incredible experience and insight Paul had gained by loving people through Jesus' love. I am not sure that it is humanly possible to love people in this manner without the transforming power of Jesus' love.

Honestly, in the Church it is not good enough to like someone or to "get along" with people. If that is the depth of our relationship with our brothers and sisters we are either missing the revelation of Jesus' love or we just don't get the big picture at all. In Peter's first letter he wrote:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:22-23)

You notice that according to this sincere love is found in obeying the truth; when we realize that Jesus does love us, confessing our sin, giving our lives over to him, dying to ourselves and being given life in Jesus. Then we understand sincere love, possess it and put it into action. Peter uses the words, "love one another deeply, from the heart". That sounds a lot more intense then just tolerating each other.

I think we often get lazy in this love. With time we take take each other for granted and become somewhat centered on ourselves instead of investing ourselves in others. Paul learned what sincere love really meant as he loved others deeply, from his heart, as he gave himself to them all the time. Paul saw the apostles as servants of the Church, not as lords over it. He saw their place was to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the immature, those growing in the Lord. To have such a view like this requires a love that comes from only one source. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:1-5)

As we head into Christmas let us keep in mind that what some refer to as the "Christmas Spirit" is a deep love that often reveals itself through self-sacrifice. But it is not "Christmas Spirit", it is our daily living. We should be living like this every day and as we do we will possess what Paul desperately prayed the Ephesians would be able to understand:

 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

May that be the Spirit's gift to all of us this year, a deeper revelation of the Father's love resulting in a sincere love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. May it start with me. Amen!

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