We are people of habit. So much of what we do is done on “auto-pilot,” allowing us to get the routine things done while our mind is focused on other things. Sometimes habits are rather strange, or even unproductive. I must frequently participate in that barbaric ritual of wearing a tie. I can not tell you how many times I have tied a tie. I have the procedure down pat. Yet to this this day I can not tie one unless I am looking in a mirror. No mirror, no knot.
Someone said that a habit is just a behavioral groove we get into. Unfortunately, sometimes we dig the groove so deep that it becomes a rut, and we are stuck. This gets pretty bad when the habit or groove we find ourselves stuck in is destructive. You do know about these kinds of habits, don’t you? Feasting on too much junk food, slacking off, or poisoning the air with gossip or inappropriate responses are all habits that can reap unhappy consequences.
If a habit is a grooved behavior pattern, then perhaps we can also groove our spiritual growth, creating patterns that are more more Christlike. These new habits can lead to a far healthier spiritual life than we’ve settled for in the past. In fact, Paul advocates training ourselves in godliness, or as he puts it:
Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—
no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a
disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.
(1 Timothy 4:7-8)
Let me toss out two suggestions for beginning your spiritual workout. First, get in the habit of starting your morning with God. Waking up aware that God has given you yet another day to live unleashes enormous positive possibilities. Instead of hitting the snooze on that blasted alarm clock and pulling the covers up over your head, consider yourself blessed that you have a precious day given you by Someone who totally loves you, has your best interests at heart, and has offered to help you not only get through the day, but become a far finer person than you ever could on your own. Let Psalms 118:24 be your wake up call: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."
Secondly, make it your habit to identify a specific ministry to do for God for the day. What will you do that honors the Lord, helps someone’s life to be a little better, and builds up God’s Kingdom? Paul’s vision for followers of Jesus is for us to “excel in gifts that build up the church” ( 1 Corinthians 14:12). What gift will you give today? Will it be a smile? A friendly word of encouragement? A chunk of your time? Some sweat and muscle power? Prayer? How can you let your light shine so people will praise God because of you? Get in the habit of using some time during each day ministering. It’s a behavioral groove that will keep you in top spiritual shape for life.
Christmas has come and gone. Now it is the season of the Epiphany. Now we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. Think of the Christmas scenes we are all familiar with. The angels came to the Jewish shepherds out on the hillside and announced the birth of the messiah. The Jewish people had looked forward to the coming of the messiah for centuries. It was a major part of their history. Now it had come to past. But, amazingly, the messiah who came to fulfill the Jewish prophecies, also came for those who were not Jews. The Jews of that time could not even imagine that. But God becoming flesh, the incarnation, was too big a thing to be limited only to the Jews. He came for all people!
The wise men who came to worship Jesus were not only Gentiles, they were people of another faith. Most likely they were Zoroasteric priests. They studied the stars and were amazed to see the bright star of Bethlehem. They knew that it announced the birth of a great king. And so, they followed it to worship and bring gifts to the Christ child. They probably had no idea the role they were playing in this great drama of God’s that was unfolding. But we look back and see it clearly.
There in the stable in Bethlehem, two groups are pictured worshiping the Christ child. First, the lowly Jewish shepherds. Second, the wealthy gentile wise men. No one was left out. The baby born that day was Lord of All! King of Kings! Savior to the world.
You are invited to join us on Christmas Sunday to worship Christ, the newborn king. Our service is at 10 am followed by a time of refreshments and fellowship.
Come again on Christmas Eve at 7 pm for a candlelight service. We will come together to praise God for sending his son to a weary world in need of a Savior. God became flesh and dwelt among us.
This Christmas may your heart rejoice in knowing you have received from God the greatest gift of all. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3: 16
Christmas is a wonderful time of year when we celebrate the birth of Christ. We gather with others to worship the newborn king. The imagery of Christmas invokes joy in us all. Think of the manger scenes, the shepherds on the hillside with angels in all their glory singing, the splendor of the mysterious kings traveling from afar following the star of Bethlehem. Add to that the vivid reds of poinsettias, the fun of buying and wrapping gifts to place under the decorated Christmas trees, and the smell of once-a-year goodies coming from the kitchen. Christmas is indeed a special time.
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the pageant that we put on at church. Almost every year we have a live baby to play the part of baby Jesus. All of my grandchildren have played that role except for one that was born the day of the pageant and one who was John the Baptist this year. The scary part of the pageant has been the part of King Herod which is played by David Gray. To quote Dr Suess about the Grinch, "He's a mean one!" Especially with that sword!
That's why King Herod doesn't seem to fit in the Christmas story, There are no King Herods in the manger scenes that proclaim Christ's birth. I have never seen a Christmas card with the verse from Matthew 2:18, "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation." We don't like that part of the story, but it is part of the story. Even in the midst of blinking decorations and flickering candles, darkness threatens the light.
We usually imagine angels speaking in soft, reassuring tones. But the angel in Joseph's dream shouted: "Wake up! Hurry! Run!" So they escaped to Egypt. They were far from home, but the baby was safe. Not everyone was safe, however. Many baby boys were killed by Herod's soldiers. Even the birth of the Prince of Peace didn't stop the suffering. We need to understand that Christmas is God's response to our sorrows. The part of the Christmas story that we often leave out -- the sadness, suffering, and death -- is also important. God comes to the worst places and the most painful circumstances to share all aspects of our lives. Christ came to bear our sorrows,
The holy season is the promise that God's joy is deeper than our sadness. Ultimately God's goodness overpowers evil. Christ is the light that shines even in the darkness. This good news worth telling.