What have you done with Jesus? Christmas, 2016
12/1/2016 7:45:37 PM
your choice affects a lot... especially Christmas
What have you done with Jesus? Christmas, 2016.
The morning after Thanksgiving, we went to cut down our tree for Christmas, and by four o’clock, I was stringing it with lights, with Jim Brickman singing in the background. Our ‘Thanks-mas’ dinner would be on Sunday evening, and I was getting ready. You see, all four of my children were going to be sitting around the same table for the first time in more than a year—and this year, there would be three grandchildren!
All of it required preparation. Preparation is a big part of the holiday season.
Turns out, it always has been. Before Jesus was born, a different sort of preparation took place. Mary and Joseph had to travel about 90 miles from Nazareth south to little Bethlehem, where they had to register for the census, decreed by Rome. Now I’ve seen the landscape; it is rugged country—even today, though of course the roads are paved and the way of travel much more comfortable. I traveled up and around and down into Nazareth in a taxi cab, and then back down near Bethlehem, and I cannot imagine navigating the Judean desert on the back of a donkey, great with child.
Indeed the preparation by Joseph and Mary for Jesus’ birth was entirely different. They were fulfilling a civic duty that apparently determined the place of our King’s birth, but Bethlehem was not an accident birthplace at all. God always has his plans. Some 700 years before Mary made that trek, Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born right there in Bethlehem. Micah 5.2.
Back to my preparations . . . I got out the little nativity set and asked my 11-year-old grandson, Jacob, to set it up, complete with a little snow to add around it. First dilemma: what to do with Jesus. Do we put him in the manger now, or wait until Christmas morning?
In truth, all of life comes down to that same question: What to do with Jesus.
What have you done with Jesus?
Jesus asked a similar question—take a look at the short account from Mark’s gospel: “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.”
Caesarea Philippi is one beautiful area. **see photo** It was the headquarters of Herod Philip and of a Roman legion in Jesus’ day. It was also one of the headwaters of the Jordan River – and is still a feeder to the Jordan River, which this year is very low. There are pools and lush vegetation—amazing fig trees which provide canopies of shade.
It was in this setting that Jesus challenged his disciples with a question which soon became personal—mind you, they had been together about a year and a half at this point.
Back to Mark - “On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8.27-29
This really is the question for all of us. Who do we say that Jesus is—who is he to us? Is Jesus the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Messiah? Okay, but who is he to you? Is he Friend, Lord or something else entirely? It is a personal question Jesus asked of his disciples, and it is a personal question he asks you and me today.
Christmas is nothing but a secular holiday, kind of silly, and very expensive, if you do not believe that Jesus’ birth changed everything, that indeed he was God’s greatest gift to mankind. Why, Jesus is the whole reason we give gifts to one another! Give yourself a gift, the greatest gift ~ if you have not already, answer the question Jesus asks of you, “Who do you say I am?” Spend some time with your answer because nothing matters more. Not at Christmas, not at any time.