Anticipating Advent: My Christmas Tree is a Cross

My parents made Christmas a very special time of remembrances, especially putting up the tree and decorating the house, both inside and outside. I brought that to my family. My wife made special treats to eat, years before I had made a special tape recording (reel to reel if you’re old enough to know what that is) of Christmas music, all for us to enjoy as we, together put up our tree and decorations.

I’m happy to say that my kids carry on some of that tradition today.

My Christmas “Tree” today is a cross.

I remember the first time that I saw a nativity set with little tiny nails laying in the manger, next to the Baby Jesus hands. It was a startling sight but pregnant with the reality and purpose of His birth, life, and death over 30 years later.

I still love and admire the decorations, the wonderful music, the Christmas trees, all of the precious age old traditions at Christmas…unless that’s all there is.

I have come to see that Christmas for believers is a call to MINISTRY of the greatest gift of all!!

It’s the “Ministry of Reconciliation,” as talked about in I Corinthians 5:17-19

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to US the word of reconciliation.”

Reconciliation is the only topic that is repeated in the Lord’s Prayer. First, Jesus says “Forgive me my trespasses AS (in the same way and extent) I FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST ME.”

And then, as if to to make sure His disciples got it, Jesus says “If YOU forgive men for their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. BUT, if you do NOT forgive men, then your Father will NOT forgive your transgressions.”

Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to “leave our gift on the altar and go and first be reconciled to your brother and then present your gift.”

Oh the weight and significance of this message at this time of year especially!!!

The Ministry of Reconciliation means that you kids forgive the classmate who made fun of you on the playground. It’s forgiving the classmate who posted something you said or did on Facebook to embarrass you. It’s forgiving the neighbor next door who keeps letting his dog crap on your lawn. It’s forgiving your spouse who doesn’t do or say things you think he or she should.

When we refuse to overlook and forgive the shortcomings of those God has put in our life, when we make ourselves their judge and jury and pass sentence on them, when God has said “Vengeance is MINE, I will repay,” when we demand of our friends, neighbors, or spouse something we ourselves can’t, don’t, or won’t give, then we seat ourselves on God’s throne.

There’s only ONE God. The position is not open, it has already filled. The throne is occupied.

Forgiveness is easier SAID than done, but Jesus came to give us the example and He went to the cross to prove it and to provide it!

~Lee Mielke

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

And Jesus said “Father,  forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34  

Forgiveness:      Being willing to bear the pain of another’s misdeeds against us.
True forgiveness never comes without a cost to the forgiver.

Forgiveness,  a topic I have often thought about.  How does one forgive?  We are called to  “love one another.”  Yet, regularly neighbors, friends, family, churches have slighted me or deeply wounded me, as I am sure I have hurt them.   How does one love through the deep pains?  How do we obey the command to “forgive one another, as I have forgiven you.” (Col 3:13, Eph 4:32)?  It is not easy.

Jesus, who is on the cross, shows the way.  HE has been persecuted, rejected, betrayed, denied, beaten, mocked and is now dying an excruciating death on the cross.  He has not yet  completed his redemptive work.  Yet, He takes his pain to the Father and asks for forgiveness: to not hold an account against them for their misdeeds because of what he suffers.

We,  too, can learn to ask the Father to not hold an account against anyone for their misdeeds against us.
We can ask for help to learn the process of forgiving, to bear the pain, to reach out for understanding (“for they know not what they do”) to be prepared for and open to an opportunity for reconciliation.

Jesus, who bore all the pain of God’s wrath against our sin, now stands before the Father as our advocate.  Because of what Jesus has done, we now have forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

What is our response?  Are we willing to bear the cost of forgiving others?

~Pam Herbert

Sharing Abundantly

2 Corinthians 1:5–For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

To follow Jesus does not mean an end to suffering but it means we willingly and joyfully choose to share the overwhelming burden He has borne in payment for our sin.

God sending His Son to walk among us
did not end sin on earth
but showed mankind how
to choose mercy rather than tyranny,
to offer forgiveness rather than blame,
to express gratitude rather than resentment,
to share what little we have rather than covet all that we desire.

By seeking truth, by following Jesus,  the comfort found in Him will far outweigh our suffering.

He was born for this.  And so were we.

E. Gibson