Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beyond the Fluff

Life is often filled with fluff. You know, the stuff that looks so good but really has nothing behind it. In some ways, Christmas is like that. We've created a lot of customs and expectations around Christmas that really have nothing or very little to do with the big moment: Immanuel, God with us. It seems to me that each year we get some more baubles thrown at us to distract us and make us focus less on Christ, though our language may deceive us as to where our true focus is. Some of these baubles are earlier sales in the stores, trying to be the perfect hosts, cook the perfect dinner, find the perfect gifts . . . . There are many advertisers committed to keeping our attention right there, so that we have little time to really pause and ponder the mystery, sacredness, and gift of Christ's birth: Immanuel, God with us; Jesus, Messiah who will save God's people from their sins. God's rule is among us. Turn around and put yourself under it.

Actually, on the surface the trinkets are easier to deal with. They look good and dazzle our eyes. We can touch them, and, well, everybody is carrying them. Yet, they are fleeting, like the bubbles we blew as children. It's easy to be carried away by their glitter, and yet we're reminded that, "all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever" 1 Peter 2:16-17. Indeed, those who submit to God's rule build for eternity as they deal with the reality of life as we know it lived for God.

Jesus' birth is about what is real in our lives and how we allow God to order our lives in the everyday, so that we experience God's abundant life as we work, as we eat, as we recreate, etc. As Mark Sayers puts it in The Trouble With Paris: Following Jesus in a World of Plastic Promises,
"But it is in the mundane that Jesus begins his program of subverting how we view life. We don't like this, for the hyperreal world tells us that things that are important are glitzy, loud, and astonishing. . . . But that is the problem: fantasy is fantasy, and science fiction is fiction. Jesus begins where we live---in the ordinary. . . . Jesus shows us how to find pleasure in the midst of real life" (Sayers 2008, 127).
Here Sayers points out that what Jesus is about is ordinary life and ordinary issues and not the over the top view that passes for reality in our world today which portrays life as a continuous, amazing drama. Instead, Jesus takes life as it is seriously and teaches us to be joyful in it. How about that? Can we go beyond the fluff and just have an ordinary Christmas where what is amazing is God's love shown in the birth of Jesus Christ?

What would an ordinary Christmas that focused on an extraordinary God look like in your student ministry?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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