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The Christmas Dragon

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Silent night.
  Brutal night.
Hell and heaven
  Meet to fight.

I doubt this version sounds familiar, but consider its appropriateness; over 2,000 years ago God fired the opening shot in a war for your soul and mine in the small town of Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth is the culmination of all that God worked in the previous 4,000 or so years since since sin entered the world.  In Genesis 3:15, God reveals a glimpse into His plan when He tells the Serpent,

“I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
      and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
      and you will strike his heel.” (NLT)

So it shouldn’t be a big surprise when we read what the disciple, John, describes in Revelation 12:3-5. Here we read a decidedly different perspective on the Christmas story. There’s no stable, no manger and no Heavenly Host singing “Gloria, in excelsis Deo.” Instead our enemy, the serpent...now depicted as a giant red dragon is poised, ready to pounce.

“I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.

"She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne.” (NLT)

The coming of Immanuel (God with us) signified the first salvo fired in the war of souls.  Not a world war...a cosmic war. One that shows how deep the love of the Father is for us. It wasn’t by chance or accident. Paul tells us that it was God’s plan all along in Galatians 4:4,5:

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (NLT)

Christmas time always leaves me in wonder. Not at the tinsel, snow or other trappings...but at the fact that God Most High chose a lowly baby to be born and grow into the man who would rescue me from a death trap of my own making.  Relient K wrote a song that still moves my heart every time I think about it:

“And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life…”

This cosmic war that began in Bethlehem and rocked the heavens was all so that you and I would accept this gift...this Jesus.

The Blessing of a Great Gift

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‘Tis the season of gift-giving! “The Ten Best Tech Gifts to Give This Season.” “DIY Your Way Through Your Christmas List.” “The Most Sought-After Toys of 2017.” Lists are made and checked off. Stores are full of shoppers looking for the best deal. People yell. Children have meltdowns. Cash registers ring. Mall Santas get peed on. Angels sing.

It’s an American frenzy every year.

I’m that person who likes to – not just at Christmas, but any time – give gifts that reflect the personality of the one I’m giving to. Oftentimes, I come across something that makes me think of that person, so I get it for them because I think of how it might (hopefully) make them feel. I like gifts that twist the heart, that make the person burst out laughing, or that make one realize there is someone out there that just *gets* them. Or I know what I am giving is something they wouldn’t get for themselves but totally need or want and will be grateful for. Latest and greatest or fancy “wow” gifts are not my style.

When I ponder what the Christmas season means to Christians, I wonder if half of us have forgotten the gift that God gave to us in his son. We are, after all, celebrating the birth of Christ. The gift, of course, is that of God sending us his son to be sacrificed for our sins – the gift of salvation. But there is also the gift he gave us in the actual man that Jesus was during his time on earth.

God did not send his son to us in the form of a flashy event with Jesus clad in a luxurious robe with a large, valuable crown for us to be in awe of. There was no, “HERE YE, HERE YE!” announcement for the world to take notice and listen to. He sent a baby. To a young, unwed girl. IN A BARN. It was subtle, unassuming, and exactly what he knew the world needed. And this gift that kept on giving? It continued to be a reflection of the fact that God knows each of us well, and that what we needed more than a fancy “wow” gift was an ordinary man who related to our humanness, walked among us, experienced what we experienced, and lived as we lived.

Just like in present day for so many of us, life often got the best of folks way back then, too. God knew that the best gift he could give us was someone who just *got* us and our lives. No “normal” king (by most standards) can do that. And God knew. Jesus as a man walking among us was the most ingenious way for God to engage with us – to relate to our emotions, our brokenness, our daily walk of life.

And what a great gift that is. Think about when you are down in the pit and feel like there isn’t a person alive who knows how you feel, and you have no idea where to go from there; and then that one friend climbs down there with you and relates. And somehow, one way or another, helps you back out again. What a treasure.

This is what Jesus did as a man on earth, and left as an example for us to this day of how to live and become more like him in our daily lives. He spent his time among the poorest of poor, the rejected, the unwanted and unloved, the hated – and he helped them, healed them, blessed them, showed them mercy and grace, and spread the news of his father’s love and forgiveness.

One of Jesus’ greatest moments of leading by example was when he was baptized. He was baptized. Think about that for a second. Jesus was baptized. Jesus. Have you ever really thought about that? Y’all – Jesus was sinless. Why did he want to be baptized? He didn’t need to repent of his sins or symbolically wash away the “old Jesus” to begin his spiritual journey. But if he was calling for all of us to be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit, then why wouldn’t he do the same? He didn’t need to. He wanted to. To show us the way.

Again, what an amazing treasure this gift is – the man that Jesus was and is and will continue to be for us. When you are gift-giving this season, I challenge you to really think about who you are giving to and what the gift will really mean to them – now and in the future. Really bless someone this season!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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