Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The greatest gift under your tree this year...

One of the most overlooked parts of the Christmas celebration is this idea of forgiveness. Without the birth and life of Christ on this earth, the offering for our sins would not have been possible.  The burden of sin would still weigh heavy upon our shoulders and keep us out of fellowship with God our Father.  Through his birth - forgiveness became possible. Through his death - forgiveness was assured.  No greater gift was provided on any Christmas since his birth!  No greater gift could ever be sought!  His life for ours - what a gift!

Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away. You bless them by saying, “You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.” (Psalm 32:1-2 CEV)

Forgiveness is a much overlooked gift of this holiday season.  Why?  We have become so "familiar" and "comfortable" in the misery of our sin that we no longer seek a way out!  Sad as this may be, it is evident in relationships everywhere that remain in shambles, despite years of opportunities for the two to reconcile.  One slight brought years of misery - one sin is all it takes to separate two - especially when the two are God and humanity!  

David's record of his confession of sin stands as a reminder to us of how damaging sin can be when left unconfessed and how freeing it can be to come under the blessing of God's grace.  See his words and take them to heart, my friends:

Before I confessed my sins, my bones felt limp, and I groaned all day long. Night and day your hand weighed heavily on me, and my strength was gone as in the summer heat.  So I confessed my sins and told them all to you.  I said, “I’ll tell the Lord each one of my sins.” Then you forgave me and took away my guilt.  (vs. 3-5 CEV)  Guilt is a natural outcome of unconfessed sin - sin eats away at the core of our being until we are numb to it.  Then it drives a stake into the ground of our failure, chaining us to that failure until we feel there is no escape from that painful ground of guilt.  Yet, when we confess our sin, God forgives not one, but all - taking away any hold we have with the ground of sin and guilt which had us bound.

- We worship you, Lord, and we should always pray whenever we find out that we have sinned. Then we won’t be swept away by a raging flood. You are my hiding place! You protect me from trouble, and you put songs in my heart because you have saved me. (vs. 6-7 CEV)  David's recommendations come through quite clear - we WILL sin - it is inevitable. Yet, there is a way of escape - a chance to avoid the raging flood of sin's misery and guilt. It comes in entering into the hiding place God has prepared for his kids - in the shelter of his wings.  We don't need to be carried away by sin and guilt - we just need to nestle into his caring arms and confess our sin.  He is the one who will save us from sin's tormenting flood of guilt.

- You said to me, “I will point out the road that you should follow. I will be your teacher and watch over you. Don’t be stupid like horses and mules that must be led with ropes to make them obey.” All kinds of troubles will strike the wicked, but your kindness shields those who trust you, Lord. And so your good people should celebrate and shout.  (vs. 8-11 CEV)  Celebration is a result of being led down the paths of right-living.  We may not "naturally" find these paths on our own merit or by our own strengths, but we can be guided down them by a faithful and trusting guide.  We don't need to dwell any longer in the land of unforgiven sin - we have a way out - through the grace of God provided by the birth, life, and death of his Son, Jesus.  He is the road we should follow - the path we should desire above all others.  This path was opened to us by the life of his Son - a thing we celebrate for sure!

It may be Christmas time around the world, but I would be remiss in not reminding us of the tremendous gift we received by this birth so many years ago.  A way was opened to us that just would not have been possible by any other means.  In the fullness of time, in the love which guides all of God's actions, he made a way for us to be free of our sin's hold and the separation which sin brings.  There is no "anchor" holding us in the past, my friends.  There is only a shelter from sin's hold beckoning us "inside" - it is this small voice we should heed this holiday season.  Just sayin!