Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Reason for the Season

Marcus and his sister were to spend Christmas at their grandparents farm. Helping to care for the cattle and mend the fences was exacting work. But the reward that Marcus received was well worth it!

“Markus,” his grandfather placed his large hands upon Markus’ shoulder, “I have a present for you. You have proved yourself responsible and capable. So I am giving this to you as an early Christmas present.”

And with that, his grandfather placed into his hands a slingshot. The wood was firm and strong, and the band was supple and snappy. It was the most treasured and wonderful thing he had ever seen!

“Now you must promise me something! You must promise me that you will never aim this at people or animals.”

Markus nodded his head so vigorously that the ruffled hair waved like wheat in a windstorm.

Markus shot an almost everything! He found that he could hit cans and send them flying for yards! Trees, twigs, fence posts… he was fast becoming a crack shot. But as he grew bored with the ‘little stuff’ he began to wonder just how FAR a stone could be propelled.

Looking across the pond, he spied grandma’s duck waddling around the edge of the water.

“I’m going to sink a stone right in front of grandma’s duck and scare it!!!” he chuckled to himself.
So saying, he pulled back upon the band with all his might, and let the rock fly. Fly it did! Such a great distance! Right toward the duck…

… yeah, you guessed it. It hit the duck in the side. It squawked at the first, but flopped around in circles. Marcus was horrified!!! He dashed up as fast as his eight year old legs could carry him!
Before his feet crashed through the weeds at the edge of the pond, his heart told him what he would find. It sank deep down inside as he came upon the still, lifeless form of grandma’s favorite pet.

The blood drained from Marcus face, and he felt weak and sick.

Quickly, he forced himself into action. Seizing the duck, he carried it a few feet over to the wood shed. He buried the carcass in the earth and piled the neatest stack of wood atop you would ever see! It looked picture perfect. But as Marcus stepped back, he spied his sister on the porch watching. She had seen everything.

Rachel held up her finger in judgment and accusation! Then turned and dashed inside.
Marcus wanted to drown himself.

That evening at dinner, Marcus had no appetite. Every time his grandma encouraged him to eat, his conscience would sting and he would flush. Rachel would just look at him and widen her eyes and smile.

After supper, grandma asked Rachel to help clear away the dishes. She looked right at Marcus.

“I’d love to, Grandma… but Marcus told me HE wanted to clear away the dishes and wash them!” she said sweetly, staring daggers of blackmail at her brother. “Didn’t you Marcus?!?”

Marcus jumped to his feet. “Yes! I want to do it, Grandma! Let me get those!” he blurted out and rushed to the task.

The next two days were completely miserable. Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. But for Marcus, there was no such thing. He had to skip an ice fishing trip with his grandpa because Rachel decided that he should fold the laundry for Grandma that afternoon. He missed licking the bowl after Grandma made fudge because sister decided that Marcus ‘promised’ to clean the bathroom and mop the floor. And, he missed the decorating of the tree because Rachel had reminded him that he ‘promised’ to chop and stack the wood.

The cold bit into the tears on his cheeks as he stood just feet from where the ‘crime’ had been committed. Marcus could not even make eye contact with Grandma anymore. It was like she was reading him with every gaze. Reluctantly he gathered the broken branches and chopped logs and put them into neat piles.

That was when he noticed Grandma standing beside the shed.

“Grandma!” Marcus cried out, unable to take the guilt anymore, “I killed your duck! Your favorite duck, I killed it!!!” Tears burst forth and regret choked back his words of repentance.

Grandma held him close.

“I know, Marcus. I know,” she said.

Marcus was horrified.

“I watched you from the kitchen window. I saw everything,” she said. Then she hugged him. “Marcus, I wondered how long you were going to let your sister torment you before you would come to me and confess.”

That Christmas, Marcus made an incredible discovery

What do you want for Christmas?!? A laptop or toy? Can it be purchased at a sporting goods store? Is it edible? Does it weigh more than a pound of butter? (IS it a pound of butter?!) Is it World Peace?!? (We’ll never have world peace until everyone just decides to do what I say!!!! Psh! :-P )

In America, Christmas is a huge thing! Its commercialized, packaged, advertized, plagiarized, and publicized! Which… is a good thing, I guess, because it help ensure that it will never go away!
But, what is Christmas really all about? Many song writers will tell you it’s about love and family; happiness and peace to the world. But why limit that to one day?! If the magic and formula was as simple as:

"Setting aside time to do all that on purpose," = "love, joy, peace, and happiness!"

... why not do it EVERYDAY!

That would save a lot of expensive wars, and leave more ammo for the rest of us to shoot! :-P But just ‘choosing’ to be happy isn’t really on option for most people. Christmas is kind of about Love, but it is something more.

Companies and manufacturers tell us that Christmas is about gifts and giving! And THEY know exactly what your loved ones want and need! But they, too, are only partially right.

Christmas is about one very Special Gift of Love… the Ultimate Gift! The one everyone desires to have, one that everyone has the power to give, but one that is the HARDEST to part with. What is this wonderful gift?!


The very first Christmas was centered around a humble manger… a stable. The Biblical ‘parking garage’ for modes of transportation. Imagine if you were traveling home for the holidays and the hotels were all booked. So much so, that you and your pregnant wife were welcome to stay, not in the lobby, but in the parking garage?!

Not a very fitting place for the arrival of the very Son of God! However, arrive, He did. He was born of a virgin, fulfilling the promises of prophecies of old! Born, not to be a King, but rather, to be the Promised Sacrificial Lamb. Man’s disobedience and rebellion, from the Garden of Eden to the present day, broke the heart of God, and caused Him to provide the sacrifice needed to pay for our transgressions. A Good Loving God reaching out to a bad, selfish and rebellious people!!!
Forgiveness available for the asking. So powerful was that Sacrifice of God’s Own Son, that it can wash away the sins of all who will place their faith and hope for heaven in that blood. Who will come to God and ask for forgiveness?! Whosoever will.

You know what forgiveness is? Forgiveness is giving up the right to the hurt you have. It is seeing that all things are brought across your path by God Almighty and with His consent and approval. And that, even though you do not understand it at the time, trusting the Lord to work through the hurt. It is choosing to thank the Lord for the hurt/problem He has sent.

Too often we think we are good people (because we compare ourselves to people worse than us.) but in actuality, we fail to understand just how bad sin is.

Sin is bad because it HURTS other people! There is no such thing as a local sin. One statistician claimed that every person effects at least one hundred others. I have no earthly clue how to even go about getting exact enough numbers to make a statement like that, however I believe, realistically, it would be much higher than that!

In my home state, a mother was arrested for driving to a bridge and slitting the throats of her two children. One was only a few months old, and died immediately. The seven year old son survived. Why? Sin hurts other people. A man in a city near me, a few Christmases back, was accused of embezzlement charges, and went home and shot and killed his wife and kids, and then attempted suicide. The ripple effect of his sin was devastating! Sin hurts other people. Two years ago, and not more than thirty-five miles from my home, a janitor was doing spring maintenance on a college swimming pool. He removed the winter cover of the pool, only to discover the floating body of a student who had committed suicide. His family, who had been searching and hoping for almost 6 months from his ‘disappearance’ were absolutely devastated! Did I mention that sin hurts other people?! God is not 'mean' for labeling ‘drinking’ sin. Putting toxins into your bloodstream not only harms you, but has destroyed families across the WORLD! It is related in almost 80% if the traffic deaths in America! Smoking, drugs, free extramarital sex, gossip, lies, stealing, hate, bigotry, self-centered living, murder, lust, greed… all these things and more PEOPLE do. And if you ask them, they will tell you that they ARE good people!!!

Bitterness is a cancer of the soul. It effects you not only inside, but also outside! One of the greatest travesties of mankind is our self-centered desire to hold grudges! Christ, the Symbol and Standard of forgiveness has forgiven us of so much. But not just forgave sins… but paid the penalty that was owed Himself!

If there are three Christmas gifts that you could give yourself for Christmas, I would ask that it be these!

1.) Accept whatever hurts or wrongs have come your way. Don’t lie to yourself and deny them, or pretend that they didn’t hurt or matter. Or worse, insist that no one understands you or what they did to you! Accept the hardships of life as having been sent to you, personally, by God Almighty for your benefit, and for your growth!

2.) Forgive. Give up the right to be hurt or offended. Give up the desire for revenge. Let it all go. Let the Lord’s grace and forgiveness He extended on the cross shine through your heart to those you feel had wronged you. Understand that all things are done for a very good reason and are allowed by God.

You would be foolish to judge a book by a random sentence on the middle of a random page, how much MORE foolish to judge all of life by one action.

3.) Thank the Lord for bringing those hurts and tragedies across your path. God’s stamp of ‘allowance’ was placed upon those circumstances. Thank the Lord for those things which you have no control over!

In giving yourself these three things, you are also enabling yourself to give to God your depression, your guilt, and your self-defeat!

Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. – I Peter 5:7

But that’s not all! There are TWO parts to forgiveness! There is the FORGIVER, and the RECEIVER!

The FORGIVER has the ‘RESPONSIBILITY’ to forgive. It is NOT an option. It is not a ‘you really should do this thing’ matter. It is something you HAVE to do. If you are a Christian, you are REQUIRED to forgive!

And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” – Luke 17:4

But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive our trespasses.” – Mark 11:26

If you ever want the forgiveness of God for your lousy, second rate, self-righteous act as a Christian, you are going to HAVE to make a regular habit of forgiving those around you! Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is giving up the right to harbor a hurt against those who have wronged you. Let go of the hurt. Give it, instead, to the Lord. Forgive.

However, the 2nd half of forgiveness is the ‘receiver.’ The one who has wronged must receive the forgiveness. This requires repentance. God didn’t tell Peter to just ‘forgive and forget.’ Peter was required to extend forgiveness in each case. But the process wasn’t beneficial to the receiver until the receiver came forth with a repentant attitude. The repentant soul gains the ABILITY to be forgiven! The ABILITY to be accepted and restored. They gain unmerited compassion and mercy. In Peter's case, each time the offender came and humbled himself, and apologized.

When a person wakes up to their sinful condition, and instead of comparing themselves to worse people around them, they compare themselves against the Law and Commandments of the Lord, they are in a position to be ‘repentant.’ God is ALWAYS ready to extend forgiveness to the ‘repentant’ soul.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” – I John 1:9

Repentance, however, is what makes the process complete and fulfilling. Non-repentance walks all over compassion, and wipes its filthy feet upon mercy. It kicks justice and blemishes forgiveness. This is why God cannot simply write off and ignore all sin and let everyone into heaven. It’s the same reason that you cannot simply ‘forgive and forget.’ Forgiveness can be offered indefinitely, but unless the transgressor understands that he/she are in the wrong, and are in need of forgiveness, it will be rejected, ignored, and unneeded/unappreciated… in short – of no effect.

A Christian’s responsibility is to forgive. To keep that forgiveness extended. The transgressors responsibility is to be repentant. When this works together, it is a perfect picture of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary for our transgressions! Since the very first transgression of God’s law in Genesis, God has extended the promise of forgiveness. That promise became a reality when Christ came to earth in the form of a child… that, my friends, was the 1st Christmas.
Christmas is about forgiveness. The greatest, most powerful gift of all!

When are you going to decide that you are NOT going to go through this life without people doing you wrong?! Injustice from imperfect, fallen, and fickle people is unavoidable!” - unknown

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