Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas lessons for hard times

The National Bureau of Economic Research has pronounced that we have been in a recession since December 2007. How can we rejoice at Christmas in hard times? What does the Christmas story have to say to people who have lost their jobs? What does it say to somebody who is in despair?

Here are four answers:

1) Let God lift you up. When Mary heard that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah, she sang that God "has lifted up the humble" (Luke 1:52). Elizabeth, the mother of the John the Baptist, even said that God "has taken away my disgrace" (Luke 1:25).

Ken Freeman had nine step-fathers, slept in streets, garages, alleys, bars and cars. His real dad walked out when he was four, and his mother became an alcoholic and started beating him. He was molested at seven and was drinking and smoking at nine, and in jail at fifteen. But at age sixteen, a friend introduced him to Jesus Christ, and now Ken Freeman is an evangelist. He says, "God can take a mess and make it a message."

Do you feel shame? God wants to lift you up.

2) Dare to dream. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20) and also the wise men were warned in a dream not to go back to King Herod (Matthew 1:12). After the shepherds came to see baby Jesus, Mary treasured the events in her heart (Luke 2:19), and after the boy Jesus showed His knowledge of His Heavenly Father in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary kept all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51). They dared to dream that God would do amazing things.

Don't give up on your dreams.

3) Don't be afraid. Every time that an angel appeared to somebody in the Christmas story, he said, "Don't be afraid." The angel told Joseph not to fear (Matthew 1:20), the angel told Zechariah not to fear (Luke 1:13), the angel told Mary not to fear (Luke 1:30), and the angel told the shepherds not to fear (Luke 2:10).

What do you fear? Are you afraid of the future? The message of Christmas is that with Christ, you don't have to be afraid.

4) Look for God to surprise you. Often God is at work, but people aren't paying attention. When the wise men came to Jerusalem following the star, the people of Jerusalem had missed it (Matthew 2:1-2). When the shepherds came looking for Christ, they were told to look for an unusual sight-- a baby in a feeding trough (Luke 2:12).

After Hurricane Katrina, First Baptist Church of Rincon adopted the members of First Baptist Church of Poplarville, Mississippi to pray for them. Members of the Rincon church wrote letters of encouragement to every member of the church in Poplarville. Then a group of a dozen members went from Rincon to Poplarville, to help do yard clean-up. A lady from Rincon knocked on the door of the Luke family, and when Mrs. Luke answered the door, she said, "Hi, my name is Jan Miller. I'm from Rincon, Georgia, and we came to help you." Mrs. Luke began to cry. When she composed herself, she said, "I got a letter from a Jan Miller in Rincon, Georgia, saying she was praying for me. When I got the letter, I thought, 'That's nice, but I need somebody here to help me.' And now here you are standing at my door!"

That's the lesson of Christmas for hard times. God doesn't just sit up in heaven and say, "I care about you." He came down to earth to prove that He cares for us. He is Immanuel, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). But are you looking for Him this Christmas?

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