An Innocent Distraction?

This is the time of year the whole world focuses on Jesus—but not Jesus the radical intenerate preacher who made his family, friends and Jewish authorities uncomfortable. That Jesus doesn’t even come to mind for many. No, most focus on the baby Jesus laying in the manger and ignore the very real-life implications his birth had for folks like Mary and Joseph—the innocents of Bethlehem. We like the baby Jesus, the manger, the wise men, the shepherds—but please don’t bother us with the other details!
You could write this off as an innocent distraction—you could—if it weren’t so serious. In the movie Talladega Nights. Ricky Bobby is leading the prayer for the family meal. He addresses his prayer to “Lord, baby Jesus” and “tiny, infant Jesus” and “8 pound- 6 ounce- newborn infant Jesus.” He can’t even finish his prayer before his wife chimes in— “Hey, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up.” Ricky quips back, “I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus or teen-age Jesus or to bearded Jesus or whoever you want.”
Yes, this character’s understanding about Jesus is ridiculous—even idolatrous—but it’s also not far from what many believe. Yes, we should celebrate Jesus’ miraculous birth during Christmastime, but here’s the problem: Ricky Bobby’s wife was right! Jesus did grow up. He grew to be our Savior—to do the work for which he was born. We can’t pick and choose the Jesus we want based upon how convenient he is to our life and preferences. That is idolatry in raw form.
So, should we celebrate Christmas? By all means, yes! Celebrate the coming of our Lord in human form. It is today what it was then, “…good news to you— wonderful, joyous news for all people.” (Luke 2:10) However, just as Paul reminded the church in Philippi, let us not forget who he is, why he came, where he is now and what that means for us all.
[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phil. 2:6-11 NIV 1984)
“That’s why we praise him; that’s why we sing. That’s why we give him our everything. That’s why we bow down and worship this King.” (Tommy Walker, 1999)
Your brother,
Roger Woods

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