If you've been reading this week, you know my heart and mind are full with thoughts about how serving and reaching out to strangers is part of a significant Christmas. But we can serve and spend time with strangers in a way that's totally, well, .... INsignificant. The difference seems to be in whether or not Christmas involves a SACRIFICE.
We don't choose the nation or the economic environment we're born into, but being born into a culture where we don't live with constant need can warp our sense of what sacrifice really is.
Recently I had an hour to kill, $3 in my purse, and a teenager with me before we picked up the other one. I wanted to buy myself a Grande Latte and do a little Christmas shopping, but I decided we could spend some quality time studying at a quiet table (ok, it was in Target, but it was still quiet), while sharing a Pumpkin Spice Latte. (This is NOT to say that Christmas shopping or Grande Lattes are not spiritual ... you won't read that on this blog! :) I was feeling that warm feeling of "I'm not such a bad mom after all" for being willing to share a latte and swap shop time for study time, when the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear that my "suffering" didn't exactly qualify as "Sacrifice." I don't know about you, but I need regular reminders of what "Sacrifice" really is.
When Jesus came to earth in a manger filled with sharp straw, we're told in Philippians 2:7-8 that,
... he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Now THAT's sacrifice! Making myself less (or even nothing) and giving up what's precious to me for the benefit of another. It doesn't require that the receiver appreciate the sacrifice. Sometimes that might actually mean a latte, but it may also mean the money I saved for a holiday outfit, the time I planned for an evening out, my hat and gloves, my private family traditions, my comfort, or even my life. Christmas wouldn't be significant at all, if it wasn't all about the sacrifice of something precious. The "gift" of Christmas was the sacrifice of Jesus' divine control and position, His comfort, His honor, His rights, His life.
When we were at KARM Wednesday for the graduation, over and over we heard how pursuing "self" leads to destruction and hurts those around us. Family members were present, as if to witness and represent the pain caused. A now victorious man shared his testimony of life transformed by the sacrifice of Jesus' life. He concluded his story by declaring, "When self rise up, we in trouble."
Christmas is the story of Jesus' sacrifice. If we let our self rise up, we ARE in trouble, and we miss the privilege of sacrificing ourselves for the glory of God and for the lives of others. Taking myself off of the throne and letting the manger King Jesus be enthroned there makes my Christmas significant. What precious thing can we let go and offer to someone else this Christmas?
Do I really want a Christmas that's significant, or do I just want my own latte? I want it to be significant. You?