Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers. The trilogy tells the story of a slave girl in the Roman empire and how she came to understand the freedom and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. At our InScribe Conference, I purchased a copy of Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaf's book, The Last Disciple, which is also set in the Roman empire era. These books reminded me that Jesus Christ saves us from the power of sin, but that doesn't mean that our lives will be easy. In fact, following Jesus Christ may require that I give up my life. (This is currently happening to many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.)
This fall, I joined the praise & worship teams at our local church. For the past two Sundays, I have had the privilege of helping choose and perform the music, based on Advent themes that our Pastor is focusing on leading up to Christmas.
On December first, we sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The Jewish people were longing for a Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. Many who encountered Jesus Christ thought this deliverance would be a literal, earthly deliverance. When Jesus was crucified, some thought that meant he was not the Messiah. They missed the freedom God offered because they were looking for it in the wrong place.
Today before the service began, I was introduced to a song I had never heard before: Christmas is about the Cross.
Instead of preaching, our Pastor and his brother shared a skit about the struggle Joseph experienced regarding whether he should marry Mary or not after she told him she was pregnant. We closed the service by singing Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. Often I forget all that Jesus gave up to come to earth!
Sometimes in North America, we focus on the wrong things at Christmas time.
- We put up Christmas lights and forget about the Light of the World.
- We sing Christmas carols that celebrate the birth of baby Jesus and forget that Jesus was born to die.
- We exchange presents and forget about the gifts of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ.
- We prepare for Christmas day and forget to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus Christ.
- We put up a Christmas tree and forget that Jesus is the one who gives us eternal life.
It's not necessarily wrong to enjoy Christmas lights, Christmas carols, Christmas presents, Christmas Day, and Christmas trees. However, we need to remember that all of the festivities, feasting, and fun point us to Jesus Christ—to his birth AND his death and resurrection.
This December, I am remembering it's all about Jesus.
What are you focusing on this Christmas?