Thursday, December 9, 2010

Call Me "Grinch"

Before my small group pastor days, I worked for a little company called United Parcel Service. I was a delivery driver with the brown truck and the brown uniform. Now, UPS is a wonderful company and I’m very grateful for the 16 years I had employment there. But, there was a certain time of year that I dreaded. It was Christmas. From Thanksgiving until the day before Christmas, UPS was a tough place to work because certain difficult elements collided all at once, making a perfect storm of misery for me. First, the work load jumped dramatically because of holiday shopping. Second, the time changed, making daylight hours shorter. And third, snow began to fall. Lots of packages and long, cold, snowy, dark days combined for enormous pressure. My cynicism grew every December and to be totally honest, I grew to hate Christmas.

On one of those cold, dark evenings, my cynicism busted open. It had been a long day. It had snowed all day and I was way behind. I knew I was going to be working deep into the evening. The streets were dark and house numbers were hard to read. My feet were cold and wet and my soul was dark. I approached a house with a package in hand. I placed it on the dry porch, rang the door bell and began to return to my truck, all the while smelling someone’s supper cooking. All I could think about was why I wasn’t home enjoying a warm dinner with my wife and kids. Stepping off the porch, a bright object caught the corner of my eye. It a Santa Claus lawn ornament—you know, the Santa with a big grin, waving at all the passersby. It was as if Santa were laughing at me that night and I realized at that moment—that stupid Santa represented my misery. Then, in a weak moment, something in me caused me to act on my distain. I cuffed Santa. Yeah, I hit him. The back of my hand smacked Santa so hard that he toppled face first into the snow. For a half second, I felt bad and almost went to pick him up… but I didn’t. I left his stupid grin, face down in the cold snow.

For years, I wrestled with the whole concept of Christmas. What’s the point? Why celebrate the birth of Jesus? It just gets twisted and out of hand anyway. And, other than Easter, we don’t celebrate other things that Jesus did. We don’t have Transfiguration parties. We don’t rejoice on the day that Jesus was baptized. We don’t have Miracle Mondays. Why Christmas? Why all the big commotion for his birth?

Oh, I knew all the right answers, but each year I had to find a time to slow myself down and let the real significance of Christmas resonate deeply in my soul. If I didn’t, I’d get caught up in the trappings and cynicism of the season. For many years, a chapter from Max Lucado’s book, God Came Near helped me. Each time I read it, I was reminded of the greatest thing that God ever did for human beings—he became man. God incarnate. God in human skin. God dwelling with us, and dying for us. As I type some words from this chapter, tears still flow from my eyes as I reflect on how God came near for me. I hope they encourage you as well.

It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. As moments go, that one appeared no different than any other... It was one of the countless moments that have marked time since eternity became measurable.

But in reality, that particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.

God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created… God had come near.

It all happened in a moment. In one moment…a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.

There will be another. The world will see another instantaneous transformation. You see, in becoming man, God made it possible for man to see God. When Jesus went home he left the back door open. As a result, “we will all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

The first moment of transformation went unnoticed by the world. But you can bet your sweet September that the second one won’t. The next time you use the phrase “just a moment,” …remember that’s all the time it will take to change this world.


Excerpts from “Just a Moment” by Max Lucado, 1987 (Multnomah Press) To read the entire chapter online, go to http://www.maxlucado.com/articles/topical/it_began_in_a_manger .

This week’s author: Phil Niekerk, senior small groups pastor

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