Thursday, December 22, 2011

Make Him Known

Well, this was not the Christmas that I was expecting or even hoping for. I thought that there might be some reprieve in my life, especially after the “year from hell” that we experienced for the first half of 2011. I was wrong.

The question is, “What do I do about it?” In the midst of everything that has been going on, I have still had the distractions of daily life to keep me grounded. It being Christmas time, it’s hard for me not to focus on what it is that I am celebrating during this time of year. I guess if you’re going to have crappy things happen during the year, it’s good to have it during a time of year where the focus is on the greatest gift that any of us could have received.

In between trips to the hospital, phone calls to friends and relatives, trips to Williamsburg, and my ordinary daily routine, I was thinking about the sermon that I was supposed to preach for Christmas day. Thankfully, it was graciously taken away from me by one of the other pastors so that I could have some time to focus on everything that is going on right now. But, the ideas were in my head long enough to have been gestating and forming, working their way into a full-fledged message. Since they won’t come out on Sunday morning, I figured that I would share them here.

Growing up in the church, one can grow tired of hearing the same message over and over, delivered with little passion and excitement, especially around Christmas time. Every year, I always do my best to reinvigorate the season with meaning and purpose. After all, like I said before, we’re talking about the greatest gift that any of us could receive, it’s exciting. Problem is, if we get caught up in the consumerism and busyness of the season, we might have the tendency to just “phone it in” and not give much thought to it all.

As I was thinking through which direction to go, I read through John 1. Having read the chapter countless times before, I was hoping and praying to see something different, something that I had not taken notice of before. I stumbled upon verse 18, which says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is a the Father’s side, has made him known.” This verse just jumped out at me almost as if it was the first time that I had read it. Particularly, the phrase “made him known” caught my eye.

In context, John had written just verses before of John the Baptist’s preparing the way for Jesus to come. I thought about how John’s mission, his duty and responsibility, was to make Jesus known. Jesus had come to make his Father known. What did that mean for me?

It just made sense to me that it should be my responsibility as well, my mission. I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ the Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Christians are generally pretty good about the first part but I have seen my fair share of them screwing up the second part…gentleness and respect. Despite some people’s belief, evangelism is not a literal beating the “hell” out of someone. We could all stand to be reminded of that.

In the midst of all of the junk of life that I have been dealing with, I keep asking myself, who am I pointing to? If I am still standing, do people know why? If I have peace, have I been honest about the reason? If there is glory to be gained, have I made it clear that I am not the one to receive it?

I just finished telling someone that in the midst of all of this, I am certain that there is a God. There is no way that I would be able to continue to function the way that I have had I not received a supernatural strength. Sure, I still have miles to go, I can still falter, but I have made it this far and I know that I have not done it in my own strength.

I don’t want people to pat me on the back and say, “Wow, I can’t believe how strong of a person you are.” I’m not. I’m weak. I’m broken. I am depraved. If there is anything good in me, it is Christ in me, and praise God that it shines through. In all that we experience, good or bad, awful or joyful, if we know Christ, we need to make him known. Others have shown me that. Others have been Christ to me in so many ways, I need to do the same to others. Imagine what things would be like if this was the normal way of things within the Church. Can you imagine how well cared for we would feel?

It’s too easy to think about my own problems, but there are greater things to come. Paul’s words to the church in Rome in Romans 8 are this, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Now that’s something I can sink my teeth into.

I covet the thoughts, prayers, phone calls, messages, notes, and cards of everyone who is surrounding me. I only pray that through it all, I can fulfill my mission, to make Him known. If I do that, regardless of what the world tells me, I am a success.

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