Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Present On a Tree



December is for Isaiah. 

I'm not sure how the tradition started, but, years ago, I read the book of Isaiah during December. The Messianic prophecies are so beautiful that I've read it every Advent season since.

Today, I realized that the first chapter is a summary of the visions given to Isaiah over decades of ministry. The bits of information God had given to the prophet may not have made sense one piece at a time, but, put together, they're a tough, yet beautiful, whole.

Isaiah saw a nation that was deep in sin. Good king or bad, their hearts were bent on pleasing themselves. They were so much like our own nation that I shudder reading about them. Even the best king was powerless to turn hearts back to their God. 

Only the Lord Himself could bring His people back. 

Isaiah 1:24-26 tells us that a restoration of relationship with God was possible, but discipline for sin, suffering the consequences of bad choices, must come first. That discipline would be followed by cleansing and purification. Only then could a right relationship with God be possible.

Because of our sin nature, the process would have to be repeated over and over again to transform our sin-wrecked lives. 

Until Jesus.

The Son of God slipped all of His God-ness into a tiny bit of flesh and came as a baby to show us how to live, then died and rose again to make that living possible. 

The sin price was paid. 

The freedom from sin was bought. 

All that remained was cleansing and purification, and that became possible through the cleansing of the blood of Jesus. We have only to accept His sacrifice for our own and surrender our will to His.

It's the best deal possible.

There will come a time, the prophet wrote, when everyone will want to know our God. The nations will stream into Jerusalem to learn of Him so that they can obey Him. 

"And all the nations will stream to it (house of the Lord). And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, ... that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.'" Isaiah 2:2-3

The swords and spears that have been used for battle will be re-formed for peaceful purposes. All the accouterments of war will be abandoned for tools of peace and unity. It will be a beautiful new world, but none of it will be possible without learning of His ways and walking in His paths.

We can make a start, if we will. We can be the ones who seek the Lord's ways and choose obedience. It all begins by embracing the gift the babe-wrapped God has given. 

The giver was God Himself. The gift was the Babe who came to die and rise again. We, the unworthy recipients. 

Christmas, dear ones, is not about presents under a tree. It's about the God-man who was nailed to a tree, for all of us. 

Today, let's reaffirm our commitment to living as if we cherish what that tiny One did for us.  Let's show the world around us what a difference He can make in a life that's been wrecked by sin. 

Let's honor the Gift by demonstrating its power of transformation at work in us. 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Black Friday Special That Changed History 
#advent #Christmas