Aloha Friday Message – December 23, 2011 – The Reason for the Season?

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Read it online here.

“Jesus is the reason for the Season.” But what is the reason for Jesus?

Aloha nui loa, Beloved. I know this is a busy weekend for you, so I’ll let you know up front that the second half of this week’s mailing is our family Christmas letter which I will send out on Christmas Eve. Many of you have received or will be receiving it in an email, some will see it in print form, either way, we still encourage you to share it. And now, here is w hat the Lord has for us today. It is from the readings for Christmas During the Day.

Hebrews 1:3b-4
When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Today, Beloved, we are inviting one of my favorite Authors to make some contributions. You will remember him as the man who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis. Lewis was also an amazing essayist, and one of his most famous series of essays was called Mere Christianity. I have selected five quotes from my copy which was published in 1950 by Collier Books.

“All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will…then we may take it [that] it is worth paying.”

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning…”

“When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.”

I do not know of anyone who does not believe that Good and Evil exist in this world. Perhaps there are a few who do not believe that these states of being are not generalized throughout all times, lands, and people; such people believe that the only good is that which benefits them, and the only evil is that which does not benefit them. For the rest of us, however, we recognize that at the very minimum there is a general moral imperative by which we measure our actions and the actions of our fellow earthlings. That is the point Lewis takes up in the beginning of Mere Christianity.

I think nearly everyone also believes that since there is Good and Evil, there must also be Right and Wrong, and with Right and Wrong come Reward and Punishment. Rewards are nice. Punishment is not nice. Right and Wrong, Reward and Punishment – these things require making judgments, and if we are to make Right judgments, then we must have some sense of what Justice is. Justice could be described as a way to measure the goodness or evilness of something or someone and then mete out Reward or Punishment based on that judgment. It is here we get into the question raised last week, “How do you know what you’re saying is true?” Well, we have our life experience to teach us about Good and Evil.

Let’s look at some real-life examples:
• Your neighbors frequently hold loud, drunken parties that last late into the night and keep you awake.
• The guy behind you on the freeway is right on your bumper honking his horn then suddenly swerves around you, displays a rude gesture, and slaloms off through the traffic ahead.
• The lady three rows behind you in the movie theater has brought her three-year-old and an infant in a baby carrier to a PG-13 movie that is 143 minutes long and pretty intense.
• Your raised your children in the Love of God, taught them all about Jesus, baptized them, took them to church, and they grew up to be junkies or drunkies or found ways to excel at every form of immorality you ever dreaded.
• Out of the blue, your spouse declares, “That’s it! I’ve had it! We’re done!” and then splits up your family. It’s then you discover your spouse’s longstanding infidelity.
• A twenty-something in a $60,000 pick-up truck tricked out with every possible option and standing about 9 feet tall, pulls up next to you at the traffic light with the sound system turned up so loud that the sub-woofer actually makes your internal organs vibrate.
• Some guy down the street has a dog that barks incessantly, and he seems to be deaf to it.
• A group of kids high on meth savagely beats and kills an elderly couple out for an evening walk. They steal all the money they are carrying – $27.
• One of the people you have worked with for years was on the news last night after being arrested as the central figure of a child-pornography ring.
• People who are allegedly from a Christian church showed up at your son’s funeral. They declare your son was a murderer and is going to hell because of all the people he killed. He was wounded by an IED in Kabul three weeks ago, and spent many days suffering enormous pain, only to die just short of his twenty-third birthday.

I am sure you can think of many more. You might ask me, “But what’s the point? Not everything and everyone is that evil. There are lots of good things that happen in the world, for instance there is…”

• The neighbor lady who lives alone but bakes cookies at Christmas time and goes to every house on the block to deliver them – she carries the boxes of cookies in the basket on her walker.
• The child who is inspired to collect $300 to buy food for the hungry and starts a movement that raises millions of dollars.
• The woman whose drug-addicted husband beats her without mercy or shame, but she still volunteers twice a week at the AIDS ward in the state prison.
• The generous couple who quietly pay off the lay-away charges for dozens of families at their local Wal-Mart.
• The Pastor who fasts and prays on behalf of his congregation, especially those whose faith has been shaken by the utter destruction of their town by an F5 tornado months ago.
• The volunteers who fly across the country or across the world to help victims of the latest natural catastrophe.
• The pensioner who drops a twenty in the Salvation Army kettle because he remembers what it’s like to be cold, and poor, and hungry, and alone on Christmas – it fact that’s happening this Christmas.
• The child who stands up to the schoolyard bully because he’s picking on another child who is mentally challenged.
• The friend who pulls you into a gentle embrace and lends you strength enough to get through one of the worst days of our life.

Which of these lists is the reason for Jesus? Why was he born as a helpless infant in a place under enemy control, drew his first breath in a cold and smelly cave filled with animals, and greeted by some of that society’s most reviled outcasts? Why did he die alone and helpless, deprived of every human dignity and freedom, and in unimaginable agony?

When he had accomplished purification from sins…. If we look at Lewis’ quotes, and at this phrase in Scripture, we can perhaps conclude that Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, Passion, death, and Resurrection all came about because of both lists. I keep coming back to John 3:17 – For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Jesus satisfies justice with Mercy. He died so that the sins, even the “minor evils” in that first list, could be forgiven. Those acts of indifference (remember, indifference is the polar opposite of Love), or discourtesy, or crime, or heart-breaking decisions that interrupt your life – they are all paid for in full because Christ died for those people who really hurt or irritate you. The acts on that second list are made possible when you forgive them as well. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” If He does not smite them with a curse, why should I? Christ died to forgive my sins, but He also died for “those who sinned against me.” Brothers and Sisters, how easily and frequently I have forgotten that! 😳

Only in God will I find Joy. Only in God will I find Justice tempered with Mercy. Only in God will I find forgiveness and the power to forgive. Only in God will my faith sustain me through my trials as well as yours. Only in God is the Father of Lies utterly defeated by the Father of Life. Only in God will I find that all of the answers I need were all given to me while shepherds watched their flocks by night and angels from the realms of Glory sang praise to God the Father in celebration of the birth of God the Son, Jesus. And if there were to be no God to be the Giver of All Good Gifts, how and where could I find anything that is Good? Only at the Manger and the Cross do I find the Power of God Who IS Christ Jesus to lay down my life before His Throne. Only through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit can any of us find hope that our sins, as well as the sins of those who sin against us, have been forgiven. God grant us each the sense to use the Grace He gave us to accept this simple fact: The reason for Jesus is us.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

Have a Happy and Holy Christmas beginning today, and lasting through all the twelve days until Epiphany, and on through every blesséd day of 2012. Watch for the Christmas Letter later. It will be on the web as well.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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