December 02, 2014
I read recently that many young adults have a dim view of the church and are especially skeptical of religion. One of the primary reasons it gave was due to the lack of authenticity.
Rather than experience the majesty of a transcendent God, they are introduced to a ancient sage more bent on extolling nuggets of self-help advice. Couple this with a culture that tells them they are "special", are affirmed by every group hoping to influence their perspectives, and taught to smell forgery from a hundred yards away, our attempts as churches to lure them with marketing gimmicks or fake emotional appeals quickly get recognized as the shams that they are. Which brings me to Christmas.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. Many churches will have begun messages that will once again revolve around the story of Jesus being born in a manger. For many of us it has become so commonplace that its almost habitual.
Let's change that. Let's recapture the wonder of the season and re-enliven a story that has so much depth theologically and so much hope practically that we dare not lose its ability to impact, transform, inspire, and engage the most skeptical among us.
If young people are looking for transcendence above relevancy, then lets give them a big God. In fact, lets give everyone who shows up a big God. I don't know about you, but 2017 has been a tension filled year, especially from the standpoint of what's been happening on the world stage.
Surely, if there is a time to convey hope and a faith in a God who is wholly capable the time is now. There is so much white noise all around us that its sometimes hard to find the right filter. There are many pastors, me included, who come to the Christmas season wondering how we can make the story come alive again. And every year I personally come to the same conclusion.
Don't complicate it, don't try and make it relevant, don't attempt to alter the story just to communicate the easy parts. Because every year, the need to hear and resonate with the story of Jesus entering the world as a baby reminds us of our greatest need.
Though we may try to divert ourselves by keeping busy and occupied, the restlessness to satisfy our deepest need will never be met by the outer trappings of Christmas. So, let's reclaim the wonder, let's pronounce His birth, and let's proclaim a God so wondrous and transcendent that it leaves people awestruck.
Then, and only then, will the heart of Christmas truly be elevated above the noise that so permeates this time of year. One last thought. In order for any of this to have impact it has to first of all be real to us personally. If the wonder has been lost by the communicator the wonder will never translate to the hearers.
I know that's true of me. And in the days that I've been preparing for our Christmas messages I have prayed for the wonder of the story to once again be enlivened in me. I hope you are praying to that end too.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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