Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013: Jesus Transforms Everything He Touches

In Matthew’s account of Jesus' birth, there’s no real dramatic or spectacular moment—no starry skies filled with angels singing praises to God while open-mouthed shepherds in the fields look up in fear and amazement. Rather, in a very matter-of-fact way, Matthew tells a story of ordinary people facing decisions involving their religious traditions and laws, their relationship and their community. We looked at all this in a lot more detail on Sunday when we looked at Joseph. But today we look at the birth of Jesus and Matthew's very ordinary, almost boring account of it, which, I want to suggest is in fact the very power and beauty of Christmas, of Emmanuel, “God with us.” I want to stress the ordinary because the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel, means God’s full and complete immersion into ordinary human life as you and I know it. God meets us in the ordinary places and situations of life, even in its complicated and sometimes messy details. Everyday human existence has now become the arena for God’s ongoing presence and activity, in other words, our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our towns.....all these have become the arena for God’s ongoing presence and activity. These ordinary places, these boring places, these places where perhaps we don't even want to be, are places where God is waiting to do extraordinary things.............because

God, as revealed to us in the Christ-child, man and resurrected Saviour, Transforms Everything He Touches

Why do I say this?......Because as I look at the very ordinary story that Matthew records for us...with no donkey, no stable, no shepherds, no innkeeper, no angels, no choirs in the heavens....just "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about".....I see an ordinary story of childbirth transformed into the best news the world ever received, a story celebrated by millions of people around the world (often by people who don't actually believe the story), I see a story people give up their lives and professions for so that they can tell others the story, I see a story people are prepared to die for...........and you know why?.......because it's a story touched by Jesus and Jesus Transforms Everything He Touches. So what do you want Him to touch this Christmas, or this coming year?........because we're in the presence of the God who transforms everything He touches.

This past Advent season in our part of the world has, somewhat miraculously in our mourning Madiba, been filled with joy and splendor, lights and laughter, and, dare I say some hope and even, some measure of peace on earth has been rekindled in us. We've been reminded of what is possible even in, especially in, hopeless situations.

And there have been mangers shop windows.....on supermarkets
Think about that. Ancient animal troughs, feeding bowls, so lowly and common in their day that farmers barely gave them a second thought, are now displayed with generous abandon all across the world. They are painted in gold, set up in lights, crafted from finest materials, bejeweled, designed by artists, and sold with retail markups—even though they’ll never actually be used by any animal anywhere.
The manger is now surrounded by orchestras giving live performances, immortalized in fine art, displayed in front lawns, printed onto window stickers that are pasted in children’s rooms (and some grown-ups' rooms and offices).
2000 years ago, that kind of treatment for a manger was not just ridiculous; it was not even imagined. A manger was just what it was: a dirty box used for holding hay and feed, a place where barnyard animals took their dinner.
Today a manger is a symbol of nothing less than the glory of God himself. Why? Because it was touched by God incarnate; and God changes everything He touches, giving that thing glory for all eternity. So what do you want God to touch this Christmas and this coming year?......your marriage, your job, your home, your church..........yourself perhaps?

You see I want to suggest that you and I are like that manger. Before the touch of God, we’re simply ordinary humans doing ordinary things. And then Jesus comes into our world, into our lives, into our homes, into our marriages, into our workplaces, and deeply into our souls which we can offer to Him as a manger for Him to make Himself at home in. And I invite you to do this, to invite Jesus in, and to keep on inviting Jesus in (it's not a once off decision, but a daily decision), because when we do this, we’re touched by the Creator of glory, and suddenly, rather than being ordinary, we are changed into vessels hosting the King.

Any greatness we may have thought we held is suddenly dwarfed into humility in the glare of his awesome presence. And any humble, degraded thing we may be or feel, is suddenly glorified by the awesome compassion of His instant, immediate, intimate love.

God transforms anything He touches. It was true of that manger so many centuries ago, and it’s true in your life, in my life, today. Let God touch you this morning.......whatever that might mean for you, just let God touch you this Christmas....allow yourself to be touched by this old, old and perhaps for you, this boring story we insist on retelling year after year after year.

Hear this good news: God welcomes us as we are—sinful, lost, helpless, dirty old mangers—then He transforms each of us into heavenly children who radiate and enjoy His glorious presence now and forevermore. Invite Him, allow Him to do this in you today.

God in a manger was both humbling and humiliating and in God's humility and humiliation, the manger becomes glorified....of course He did the same thing to the ugly cross at Easter, changing an instrument of humiliation and torture, into a thing of glory......if He can do that for things like mangers and crosses made out of wood, how much more can He do for things made of flesh and blood in His own image? God in Christ wants to come into you and into me.....and I can't speak for you, but coming into me is both humbling and humiliating for God, but He longs to do it and continues doing it in people like you and me all the time. And the good news of Christmas is that as long as we receive Him and hold Him.......He does His work of life transformation, marriage transformation, home transformation, church transformation and imparts His glory.

Look at what He did for the manger, look at what He did for the cross......think of what He's longing to do for you.

Jesus Transforms Everything He what do you want Him to touch and transform in your life this Christmas?

Welcome Him, receive Him, cling to Him and be transformed by Him.....because Jesus Transforms Everything He Touches.

I am indebted to  
Mike Nappa's new book
God in Slow Motion
for stretching my thinking
regarding what Jesus did
to the manger.

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