December 6, 2011
About this time last year I was teaching a Bible study and at the end of it, a dear old lady in the back raised her hand and asked a question. She said “In the Bible it talks about miracles and healings and supernatural works of God. It also says that God never changes. So, why don’t we see those miracles anymore?” Many in the class were nodding their heads in agreement and waiting eagerly for the answer.
My response was to say that those mighty moves of God still happen everyday, especially in other countries. I tell her about the persecuted Christians in 3rd world jail cells that see Christ literally come to their cells. I told the class about times where, in India, as the funeral procession went past the open air preacher, the deceased sat up, raised to life by the power of God. I told them stories from our dear friends in El Salvador who hold crusades where people are wheeled in but walk out. Where, when the gangs go to drive them out of their barrio, all the guns jam and instead of killing the Christians, the gang members themselves become Christians even though it many times means certain death when they go back to the gang,
I told the class one of my favorite stories of an African preacher who came to our church and said that they live completely by the power of God. That even if a home appliance breaks, they lay hands on it and see it miraculously fixed, to say nothing of the people who are healed miraculously, set free from demons spectacularly and saved dramatically each day.
Then this dear lady had a follow up question… “Then why don’t we see it in our church?”.
That’s really the crux of the issue, isn‘t it? Why is it that what we read and hear about Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is not, for most, ours in daily experience? And the answer, directly applicable to Christmas, is that we have lost sight of what really matters in this life. We have taken our focus off of God, His Son our Savior and the redemptive work of the Cross and all the Cross means. The Cross of Christ means hope, it means sacrifice, it means love, it means forgiveness, it means salvation, it means forgiveness, it means reconciliation and it means sacrifice - the sacrifice of God in sending His Son to earth on a starry night and the sacrifice we owe in surrendering our lives daily in response.
Each year instead of celebrating a Savior on Christmas, we celebrate what has become a pluralistic “holiday” season. Our Christmas is resplendent with presents and lights and Santa Claus and candy canes and decorated trees. All items that purport to have everything to do with Christmas but nothing much to do with Jesus.
It wasn’t always that way however. In fact rather then being secular items, each of those listed above were in historic practice actually directly tied back to Christ.
The Tree that’s evergreen, decorated with lights (originally candles) and a star? Points to Jesus as everlasting light and life. The upwards direction of the needles pointing to heaven. Capped with a star that remembers the Star of Bethlehem that held vigil over the newborn King. Shining with lights reminding us of God’s light shining in the darkness. You know who invented that tradition? Martin Luther.
The Candy Canes? Shaped in the form of a “J” for Jesus, striped with Red symbolizing the blood of Christ and White symbolizing the purity of new life offered in Him. The flavor? Peppermint, reminiscent of Hyssop, a cleansing, healing herb in the Bible.
The Bells of Christmas? Bells were used by shepherds to call lost sheep back home. Christ is the good shepherd who still pursues the lost sheep to bring them back Home.
The Gift bow? One continuous strand, tied together, as a reminder of what God has called and enabled all mankind to be in Christ.
The Presents? Commemorative of the gifts given Jesus by the Wise Men and demonstrative of the fact that Jesus is the ultimate gift given us by God.
Santa Claus? A real person from the 4th Century AD who was a Turkish Bishop that went around giving presents on Christmas and was especially generous to children.
But today, we’ve forgotten all that. And Jesus? He’s been stripped from our Christmas. We’ve banished Him to the manger as a baby at the local Christmas production. Stripped out of our celebration of Christmas, just as we’ve allowed Christ to be stripped out of our schools, our country and even our personal lives.
And it’s not a Christmas phenomenon, it’s true of Easter, Thanksgiving, Sundays and pretty much every other day too. Then we ask “Why isn’t God moving in our lives?”
Oswald Chambers, one of the finest men of God produced, makes it very clear in just about every book he penned, most notably My Utmost for His Highest that the foremost job of the Christian is to keep our focus on the Cross and Him who hung upon it. In fact a favorite passage is when he says “No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, ‘a servant [who] is not greater than his master’… Our Lord calls us to no special work - He calls us to Himself”.
Chambers goes on to say that in regard to the feebleness of the Church, and it extends to individual Christians as well, that “One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been the focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption”. The simple fact of the matter is that Christ is to be, and must be, the center of the Christian and all that he does, daily. Christ must be the center of our activities, the center of our focus and the center of our day - not to mention life - or all is weakness, impotence and a sad form of mere existence.
Scripture of course makes this even more clear in Christ’s own charge when He says:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." John 15:4-6
Know any withered branches? I think we see them overwhelmingly here in America. We need to focus back on what matters, Jesus Christ, slain, risen and coming again.
This Christmas, don’t let Christ be taken out of your Christmas. Let Him be not just the center of December 25th, but the center of your life. Contemplate for a moment with me the Truth of Scripture; that the eternal God sent His perfect Son to die for you, that you may have eternity with Him. There is no other way. That is what we celebrate this Christmas, the birth of God’s ultimate Gift. It is the reason we live each day, that we may be found to honor, praise and abide with the author of life. Abide with Christ, that He may abide in you.
The measure to which we do that will be evidenced by God’s working in our lives and our churches and our country. We talk about our sacrificing for Christ, forgetting that His was the ultimate sacrifice and it is our pleasure, even duty, to respond with our lives.
May you do that this Christmas, and each day - abide with Christ, keep Him as the center and focus of everything. And may the clear display of Christ in your life be the proof. God has not stopped moving, but by and large we’ve turned our eyes, attentions and finances toward other pursuits. This Christmas represents a great chance to change that in both attitude and action.
Merry Christmas from Ron DiCianni,
all of us here at Tapestry Productions
and the Ron DiCianni Artist’s Circle.
Join the Ron DiCianni Artists Circle now to receive free newsletters, product discounts and first glimpses at art in progress!