Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Is Not Your Birthday 05

Session 5: Creating New Traditions Based on Ch. 4: 
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. -I John 3:16-18

Do you struggle to come up with the perfect gifts each Christmas for the special people in your life? It can be tough but here’s an even more important question: 

What do you give Jesus on his birthday? 
How can we change the traditional focus of Christmas from materialistic self indulgence to giving Jesus what he desires on his birthday? 
And what can you possibly give the Lord of the universe? 
Fortunately Jesus made his wish list unquestionably clear in his last teaching in the book of Matthew concerning his return and the day of final judgment.

Matthew 25:31-36: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of
the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

We serve God when we serve others. We give to Jesus when we sacrifice our time, talents, and resources to meet other’s needs in his name. The church is the body of Christ. We are the only hands, feet, and wallets that Jesus has. Many people ask the question “If God is all-loving and all-powerful then why doesn’t God do something about evil?” The answer to this question is simple: you are the something that God is sending to combat evil in this world.

You are the evidence that the Messiah of God’s Kingdom is among you when everything that is broken around you is being restored, when the oppressed and captive are being set free, and when good news is being preached to the poor. Everyone who recognizes Jesus as Messiah is a servant of his mission and if that includes us, then we need to be committed to live more simply so that others may simply live - because that is what Jesus desires from his followers. 

Can you imagine the birthday celebration if every Christian in every church practiced the commitment of giving an equal amount of what they spend on themselves to a specific Jesus mission somewhere in the world? We can change the world one place at a time, one person at a time, if we are willing to celebrate Jesus’ birthday in a way that honours him. When we acknowledge Jesus as Lord we give him the rights to define our lifestyles, our values, and yes, in the way we celebrate his birth.

At Christmas, we celebrate a messiah, a deliverer who was born to die. So we too are called to give ourselves sacrificially with Christ for the world that God loves. Such sacrifice is paradoxical because the more of ourselves that we give away, the more abundant our faith and our commitment will be with what we have.

1. Who is the hardest person to shop for on your Christmas shopping list? How much time and energy do you have to spend finding a gift for him or her?
2. What would happen if you put as much time and energy into Jesus’ wish list each Christmas as you put into getting everyone the right gift?
3. What are some practical ways we can change the traditional focus of Christmas from materialistic self-indulgence to giving Jesus what he desires?
4. Describe an event where you gave of your time, talent and/or resources and were completely blessed beyond what you expected.
5. Why do you think God uses people to bring restoration and healing to a broken world instead of just stepping in with almighty power? Has God ever used you?
6. What “big buts” are keeping you from giving sacrificially of both time and money? What excuses do you need to overcome this year to truly honor Jesus with your life’s resources?

Get Creative! What is one new tradition or family practice you could start this year to make every Christmas a more authentic celebration of Jesus?


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