Whether we think about it or not, we all leave a legacy behind us as a result of our life and experience. Sometimes that legacy can be rich with wisdom, accomplishment and example, and other times our legacy can be a sad tale of unfulfilled potential, broken dreams and a trail of “if only” and “why didn’t I?” The thing is, we choose much of what our legacy will look like! What if you thought about your legacy in the context of leaving something behind of great value to your grandkids? Aside from material things to give them physical comfort in life, what would you want them to learn? What would you want them to know so that their lives could blossom with fulfilled potential and with true contentment? Even if you don’t have grandchildren, let’s suppose that you do and are writing them a letter with words of wisdom…what will you say?
It is the Christmas season. It is a time for happiness, giving, receiving and appreciating. There was a time not so very long ago when the main focus of the Christmas season was the birth of Jesus as the world’s Savior. We are past that now, thanks to our political correctness, and Jesus is very much an afterthought of the holidays. Well, here today Jesus is NOT an afterthought. He is NOT a divisive figure who offends people by his mere existence. No, here today Jesus is recognized as the Savior of humanity, the centerpiece of God’s plan and the King of Kings. As we honor the birth and life of Jesus today, we will do so by highlighting some personal conversations he had with various people he encountered throughout his three-and-a-half year ministry. In so doing, we will tell a story that is rarely told. Merry Christmas!
Human nature is a funny thing. We live in an age of instant gratification, an age of virtually no waiting for anything. We send a text, a tweet, a message or we post, and our expectation is for an almost instant answer or follow or response or reaction. What we want we not only assume we can get, we assume we can get it immediately in just the right color, brand and style. Getting and having have become so easy and expected that we have begun to overlook the value of patience, waiting and doing without. Human nature IS a funny thing. In this age of abundance, we are experiencing a very high rate of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Why? One reason is that we have all but forgotten the preserving and healing power of gratitude. It’s really simple - for happiness and contentment to flourish, they require gratitude to be their constant companion. Let’s take a look and see how it all works…
So, if you are a little kid it’s time for the excitement of “trick or treat” – costumes and candy. If you are older it’s time for parties, horror movies that look and feel so real they make your skin crawl, the undead, dark spells and generally unfettered behavior. Yup, we are talking about Halloween and all of the trimmings that come with it. Here is the thing – no matter what age you are, when Halloween comes it is also time for a strong and convincing dose of witchcraft. That’s right – no matter what age you are, witchcraft is not only entirely mainstream, it is enticingly mainstream and very much within reach. So, is this something to be worried about? Are we dealing with some big, dark and deceiving practice or is it all just harmless home-brewed storytelling?
241 years ago the course of world history changed, for on July 4th, 1776, the 13 colonies adopted “The Declaration of Independence” and proclaimed themselves to be The United States of America. Since then these United States have risen to become a world power and have been the source of many amazing world innovations. One innovation that seems to never be talked about or even noticed is this country's profound contribution to recognizing, appreciating and preserving the wonders of the natural landscape. Nature. It covers the world with its intricate complexity, its unfathomable beauty and its breathtaking majesty. For most of us, our park system doesn’t feel like an innovation; rather it feels like a common, scarcely noticed commodity – yeah, we have National Parks – cool! Today we stop for a moment and ask how did these National Parks come to be, what was the motivation for their existence and what does all of this have to do with Almighty God?
After the greatest act of love ever committed, Jesus lay dead in a donated tomb. His loyal companions and followers were stunned, sickened by what they had witnessed. But beyond the gory details of this death, they were hit with the uncomfortable thought that perhaps all they had known the past 3 ½ years was a lie, fake, delusional. This man Jesus they had trusted and loved was dead. He died like everyone else. There was no last minute fire from heaven to kill the Roman soldiers or the angry mob of his own brethren demanding his death. There was no angelic rescue team to pull him off that dreaded piece of wood. He was dead. For real. No one was coming to save them from the Roman rule. They would not be sitting on anyone’s right hand in the new government. They had seemingly been duped. Now what? Well, three days later, it was imperative that the risen Jesus convince them beyond a shadow of doubt that all he had promised was REAL and was happening. His followers needed to be 100% convinced and energized to tell the Good News at any cost to all who would listen. The man Jesus was gone forever, but the spirit Jesus would have life within himself, and power to restore all of mankind back to his Father. They needed to urgently tell that story to you and me. How did they go from feeling ultimate betrayal and grief to absolute certainty and joy?
Christmas has come - the hustle and the bustle, the lights, the music, the trees, the ornaments and the garland. Christmas has come – Santa and reindeer and elves and Frosty and movies and presents and gift wrap and cards. Christmas has come – whether you feel you can say “Merry Christmas” or just “Happy Holidays,” we are wishing well to those around us, for it is the season of good cheer and smiles. Christmas has come – family and dinner and cakes and pies and cookies and giving and receiving and football and dressing in new clothes. Yes, Christmas has come. It has certainly made its indelible mark on us yet again…. You know Christ has come – the prophecies said that he would and God’s plan said it was time. Christ has come – he was born to live so that he could die and redeem all of humanity. Christ has come – his gift was simple, yet it was the greatest and most powerful gift that could ever, that would ever be given to this world. Christ has come – and as a result, all of the human race has the opportunity for eternal life. Christ has come – has he made his indelible mark on you?
Here’s a question...what do the 4th of July and Thanksgiving have in common? The most obvious answer is these two celebrations are uniquely American in that their very founding was undeniably linked to the founding of the United States. The less obvious answer is that these two holidays were also founded in humble recognition of God Almighty. Just read the first and last parts of the Declaration of Independence and the first declarations for Thanksgiving and you will see that God was first and foremost. Here we are about 240 years later and God is no longer first and he certainly is no longer "for most." So, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday what can we do to relight our own fire of gratitude towards God and towards one another? Let’s start by talking about it!
So, what is Halloween about anyway? Is it all about the costumes, the candy and the parties? Is it all about the social connections of people actually seeing and talking to other people or the excited grade school kid who gets to dress up like a video game hero? Or is Halloween all about the dead? Is it all about communication with the spirit world, fire festivals and the dark arts? Can dead souls really “cross-over” the boundary of our physical world on this unique night? What is real and what is not? Where did this all start and what has it become? There is a lot more to this than you might think!
The life of Jesus truly is the greatest story ever told, for because of his life, all of mankind will also have life. The life of Jesus reflects all that is good and selfless in humanity. The death of Jesus reflects all that is courageous and noble and the resurrection of Jesus – well, that reflects all that is godly and loving. Jesus truly did leave us a legacy to follow. Today we honor his resurrection by following some of the legacy he left behind for us during his last day.