A Thought for Christmas 2016

Image result for nativity scene

When I arrived to pastor Trinity Wesleyan Church in Kokomo, IN (a great church), I discovered there was a small group of people who were praying for “a pastor from God’s Bible School & College.” Well, they got what they prayed for, but not what they expected.

One from this group became somewhat critical. He regularly challenged me during Bible studies and offered suggestions on sermons for me to preach. (Hell, fire, and brimstone was his favorite recommendation.) His “testimonies” were frequently gripe sessions about how the people in the church were failing. He had to be rebuked often and I was left trying to rebuild what he had torn down. Finally, it all came to a head one Wednesday night when he was offended by something I said. He made quite a show of walking out. He never came back.

Another of that group was enthusiastic at first. They wanted to be a part of growing the Church of God and were faithful to come. But, they, too, began to wane. The interest that was first present gave way to indifference and then resistance. When asked to fill a role in the church they refused. Slowly, they began to miss services and soon they were gone for good.

God answered their prayers – I was a graduate of God’s Bible School & College – but, I was not what they wanted. They had a definite preconception of what a person from that blessed college should be and I did not fit that mold. At the end, I concluded, God gave them what they asked for and they did not want it.

Two thousand twenty-two years ago, (or there about) Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (St. John 1:10-11) Jesus was not who they expected Him to be.

From the first utterance of Eve after giving birth to Cain, “I have acquired a man from the Lord,” there was an expectation of a Redeemer. One of the early prayers for the Messiah was, “Speedily cause the offspring of Your servant David to flourish, and let Him be exalted by Your saving power, for we wait all day long for Your salvation. Blessed are You, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.” Expectantly they waited, but when God answered their prayers for the Messiah they rejected Him.

Jesus did not fit the image of what was expected. He was born in a stable rather than a palace. Humble shepherds from the nearby hills and unknown Magi from the far east attended His birth and early life. An old man and woman recognized who He was when His parents brought Him to the temple, but no one else. He was poor, not rich. He was from Nazareth, not Jerusalem. Although He attracted tens of thousands to hear Him teach, only about 120 truly followed Him. That small number had two swords among them and never marched in columns or practiced war games. Rejected by the religious and political elite, Jesus was proclaimed King of the Jews on one day and crucified a week later.

Like those three or four people I encountered at Kokomo, God answered their prayers, but they did not like His answer. I have often wondered if Jesus came to pastor my church, would I leave because I did not like His call to and definition of discipleship? Would I cast my vote against Him in the next pastoral election or request the superintendent to replace Him, saying, “He is just not working out for our church?” Surely, I would not, but . . . am I all that different from the first century peoples who encountered Jesus in the flesh?

From the beginning of time the world longed for a Redeemer and when He came they missed Him. The reason, they were looking for a certain kind of messiah and he did not come. Jesus was the Messiah the world needed (and needs), but He was not the One they desired. Is the same true for you today? Is Jesus the Redeemer you long for and will follow with absolute devotion? There is no question that Jesus is the One you need. The only question left to answer is, is He the Redeemer you desire?

Merry Christmas

Jesus Christ is born!