What are we celebrating?

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Who is your God to you?  I am not asking for the “right answer” in theological terms, or the Sunday School answer we know sounds right.  Everyday, in the most practical terms, in the moment-by-moment life you live, who is your God to you?  When you are getting dressed, driving to work, dealing with angry people or setbacks at work, on the phone or checking email, at home in the evening, who is your God to you?

Here is an interesting passage lifted from John Eldredge’s book, “Waking the Dead” (a great read, BTW).
“I was reading the prophet Jeremiah a few weeks ago when I ran across a passage that referred to God as “the Lord Almighty.” To be honest, it didn’t resonate. There’s something too religious about the phrase; it sounds churchy, sanctimonious. The Lawd Almiiiighty. It sounds like something your grandmother would say when you came into her kitchen covered in mud. I found myself curious about what the actual phrase means in Hebrew. Might we have lost something in the translation? So I turned to the front of the version I was using for an explanation. Here is what the editors said:

Because for most readers today the phrases “the Lord of hosts” and “God of hosts” have little meaning, this version renders them “the Lord Almighty” and “God Almighty.” These renderings convey the sense of the Hebrew, namely, “he who is sovereign over all the ‘hosts’ (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the ‘hosts’ (armies) of Israel.”

No, they don’t. They don’t even come close. The Hebrew means “the God of angel armies,” “the God of the armies who fight for his people.” The God who is at war. Does “Lord Almighty” convey “the God who is at war”? Not to me, it doesn’t. Not to anyone I’ve asked. It sounds like “the God who is up there but still in charge.” Powerful, in control. The God of angel armies sounds like the one who would roll up his sleeves, take up sword and shield to break down gates of bronze, and cut through bars of iron to rescue me.”

In the midst of our cultural religion, and especially at Christmas and Easter, we get way too invested in our cultural holiday celebrations.  The decorating, gifting, re-gifting, entertainment, hurry, noise, and crowds.  These all serve to distract us from the simple, hard facts that should consume our thinking in a Holy day season – “The God of the Angel Armies Who Fights for His People” came to earth to launch an offensive campaign to rescue humanity – you and me – from certain destruction.  That destruction is not just at the end of all things, but is an everyday war of destruction to strip us of all that is the goodness and image of our God in us.

One of the titles given to Jesus in the Bible is “The Commander of the Armies of Heaven.”  That is also the baby sent to earth to suffer and know all that a birth, infancy, childhood, coming of age, adulthood means.  To know rejection, deprivation, accusation, setback and betrayal, wickedness in people, pain and suffering beyond anything we will ever know.  And to complete the work of rescuing us from our everyday selfish selves, our daily grinds, as well as from daily and eternal separation from Him.  That is the Baby in the manger.

So what does this mean for us? First, it seems that it would make sense to simplify your Christmas so that there is far less of the hurry, noise, crowds, and cultural distraction.  Spend time celebrating Christ alone. Talk to Him.  Listen for His voice.  He is speaking to you everyday.

Second, it is important to remember the basics of daily life. Those basics include Christ Jesus as the focal point and fixation of your living every single day.  They also include the cross of Christ on which He died to save us all and bring us into union with Himself, and by which we die daily to our self life, self-management, and self-dependence. Of course, the basics include the Word of God as our touchstone, our compass and the source of our critical way points through each day. As a wilderness explorer, I know the vital importance of a compass and of referring to it often, trusting it over personal opinion. And perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit alive in you, drawing you deeper into the union relationship and a deeper love for God. He is also your guide into the Word, and will make sense of everything that is going on.

And third, talk to God. Listen for His voice. He is always speaking to you, and if you are not actively listening you will miss what He is saying. This means being conversational with Him, not simply talking at Him as is the case in most people’s praying. Learn the back-and-forth of conversational communion with Your God who lives in you by His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill you with a deep love for Him, and to make known to you the fullness of Himself that is in you. Seek His help as you yield to Him and let the union with Him take over your living. As you do these things, I am certain you will begin to come to life-changing understandings of who your God is.

This Advent season, who is your God to you? 

Remember to pray as if your life depends on it.  It does. Walk in union with your God.  Love Him, and love others freely.  Strength, courage, and honor by the grace of our God and by His Spirit with you. Merry Christmas! 

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