The holidays are an interesting time for many college students. After spending many restless hours studying for final exams at the end of the semester, many college students return home for Christmas. However, it is a strange limbo time for students, because they are making the transition from living at home to being on their own. Many college students move around a lot, moving from home to dorms back to home and then maybe to an apartment. For many they never feel like they have a place to call their own. The irony is that many of these college students have something in common with the Christmas story. Jesus wasn’t born in a hospital, and then taken to a home where there was a Christmas tree and room waiting for him. In fact Jesus wasn’t even born where his parents were from. They lived in Nazareth and had to travel to Bethlehem for a census. While there Jesus was born in a feeding trough for animals, because there wasn’t even a room in an inn. Today that would be like saying Jesus was born in a dirty janitor’s closet of a hotel, because there were no rooms available. As if this wasn’t enough, Mary and Joseph then had to travel to Egypt to protect Jesus from being killed by a jealous King. Jesus was constantly moving throughout his whole life. He never had a place of his own. Yet, Jesus was never without a home. For Jesus, his home was the presence of God. Jesus never moved from place to place without taking the presence of his Father with him. Likewise our home is found in the presence of God. Our home is first seen with Adam and Eve who communed with God in a garden. However, the garden was not their home; their home was and is the presence of God. When we sinned we became homeless, because we lost the presence of God. However, Jesus came to give us a new home in the presence of God by sacrificing his life on the Cross. His very name, Immanuel, means “God with us” or in other words “God has made his home among us.” When I was in college I remember being so glad to go home over Christmas break. Christmas break meant a chance to stop studying and just relax with friends and family. However, I also remember becoming lazy in spending time with Jesus. I remember thinking spending time with family and friends at my house was where I could find rest. Family and friends are good and should be enjoyed, but they are not your true home. Only in the presence of Jesus will you find rest this Christmas break. Only in the presence of Christ are you truly home. I encourage you as you go home over the break that you go to your true home, which is the very presence of Jesus. Spend time with him in solace and prayer. Meditate on the words of the Christmas story and consider a God who gave up his status as God to become a man, so that you can come back home. As you celebrate the birth of Jesus in your houses this Christmas, my prayer is that you remember the home Jesus extends to you, which is his very presence.
Check out Matthew 1 & 2
These past few weeks we took a look at what 8:08 would look like if everyone bought into the practicality and faithfulness of God’s love. An amazing part of the Gospel is that Jesus pours his love into us so that we may be able to love like he does. We too can be practical and faithful in our love for each other. However, God’s love is not a science experiment studied at a distance; we are the experiment of God’s love and it requires every one of us to be ALL IN. To be ALL IN, we have to start with seeing what the Church looks like. The Church simply means an assembly of people, and the Old Testament equivalent to the word “Church” stresses the action of assembling together more than the actual individuals assembling. This has huge implications because the Church is not a stagnant building or people who hold to a certain set of creeds, but rather it is people who do something. The New Testament confirms very quickly that this something is living out the Gospel. The Gospel says that God came as a man in Jesus to save the world from sin by dying on a cross and rising from the dead. We are called to believe in this by faith, and to be like Jesus by giving our rights over to God and loving like he does. This is a message of hope that we are entrusted to spread and let transform the way we live. We are to BE THE CHURCH and at the heart of it we have a purpose in actually speaking about the hope we have in Jesus and loving people practically and faithfully. How do we love faithfully and practically? We are not left alone to the power of our own love, but instead we are given the very Spirit of God to live in us. If we believe in Jesus then we have received the Spirit who not only teaches us to love like Jesus but also gives us the power to actually do it. Part of the way he teaches us to love is by giving us gifts to serve each other. We are all gifted by the same gift and that is the Holy Spirit. He also gives us unique gifts to serve each other. We know best what our gifts are by just jumping into actions of service. Part of being the Church is realizing WE ARE GIFTED TO GIVE. However, at the heart of our gifts and giving should be humility. If the Gospel is the heart of the Church then part of the heartbeat is people considering others more important than themselves. I think we all have those people we are wishing wouldn’t talk to us or those people we are just wishing would fall flat on their faces. At the heart of this is sinful pride, and in order to be the Church we need to shed this pride for grace and humility with each other. We must CHOOSE TO LOSE. That means putting aside our competitive nature to win and outdo the guy or gal next to us in order that we may increase in humility and overflow in love. We must choose to lose so that we might win humility, which is part of the character of Jesus. What does this concept of being ALL IN look like? It starts with being the Church, realizing we are gifted to give, and choosing to lose.
Check out Ephesians 4, 1st Corinthians 12, & Philippians 2