After Christmas

With all of the busyness and potential distractions and challenges of the Christmas season we hope that you also had time to reflect on Jesus, the Savior whose birth we celebrate. This Christmas Eve the preschoolers who checked into our Kids programming had a birthday party for Jesus. There was cake, candles, and we sang “Happy Birthday to You” to Jesus. This reminds me about a tradition we have at birthday parties: the wish. You know, after singing “Happy Birthday” the birthday boy or girl makes a wish and blows out the candles. I won’t ruin your enjoyment with a history lesson on the origins of this practice. Instead, think about this:

  • On Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
  • If Jesus were there at his party, we’d be giving him presents.
  • And he would be the one to blow out the candles.
  • And making a wish.

So, what would Jesus’s wish be? Now, I know it might not be quite right to imagine Jesus wishing for something, so you’ll just have to avoid over analyzing this point okay? What might Jesus wish for? In other words, what might Jesus want or desire as it relates to your life? Perhaps the best question you can ask as you approach this new year is Jesus, what do you want for me and from me?

I just finished reading through the New Testament letter Hebrews during my morning quiet times. This book is packed with rich and amazing truth about who God is, who Jesus is, what was accomplished through Jesus life and death, and what people who follow Jesus should do about all of that. I just want to share a part of the closing of this amazing letter. This is closing is something we call a benediction. I hope you’ll be inspired as you catch a glimpse of Jesus’s wish for you and for me, expressed through the words of Scripture.

“May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

The part of this passage that I want to focus on is in bold above. “May the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will…” Let’s look at piece by piece.

May the God of peace. Wouldn’t peace be something you would like more of in 2019? God is the “God of peace.” Similarly, Jesus is described as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah …). Real peace can only come from God. The reference to the death (blood) and resurrection of Jesus tells you that peace for us is not natural. Peace is not readily accessible. This is because people are not naturally at peace with God. Jesus’s death was necessary to forgive sins and make peace with God a possibility. Elsewhere the Bible tells us that “in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:13-14).

In the Bible, “peace” includes the absence of struggle and it includes the presence of wholeness. Peace is more than rest, it includes fullness of life. We have five kids and sometimes at home I might seek out “peace and quiet” which means hiding from them or sending them outside! A house of God’s peace, however, doesn’t mean the absence of noice or activity, but it means that we have unity and wholeness in our relationships together.

Are there relationships this year that you need to make peace with? Is there a part of your soul that God might want to bring wholeness to?

Equip you with everything good. God want to equip you! The word used for “equip” is the same Greek word the author of Hebrews used to describe how God “prepared” a body for Christ when he came into the world (10:5). Think about that. Do you think God only partially prepared the body for the Son of God? Certainly his preparations were well thought out and fully completed. It’s also the same word the author uses in 11:3 to describe that the universe was “created” by the word of God. Think about that! Is there any limit to the power of God to equip you? Let me confess, I often feel inadequate to situations in my life. I question whether I have what it takes to be the husband Bethany needs. I doubt sometimes that I can be the father my children need; that I have enough time, energy, wisdom or love to provide. I doubt whether I have “the goods” to lead and pastor the people God brings into our church.

Unless I’m off, I imagine you have some of the same struggles at times as well. Take a moment to admit to God where you feel the most inadequate. God desires to “equip you with everything good.” Now we have to be careful here. The point isn’t that you get everything on your birthday wish. God isn’t a wish-granting genie. There’s a context to the “everything good” in this passage.

That you may do his will. Doing God’s will is not easy! That said, this is exactly the reason for this benediction prayer that God will “equip you with everything good.” The good he equips you with is for the purpose of the good he desires for you to do. God blesses you so that you can be a blessing. He provides what you need to do his will.

At Harvest, we are people helping people know and follow Jesus. Following Jesus requires the powerful, equipping work of God in our lives. Did you notice that it is God “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.” This is one of those both/and situations the Bible reveals. It is both true to say that we do and to say that God works out his will in our lives. We do his will. And he is working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.

It is for this reason that it is critical that your doing for Jesus never outpaces your being with Jesus. I’ve driven miles in the wrong direction before because my mind was on something else. I wasn’t thinking about where I was going and I passed my exit on the freeway and kept going for miles. We can do this in life too, even in things we are doing “for God.” We might get so focused on what we’re doing that we’ve gone miles past the exit God would have had us take if we had taken more time to listen to him.

The great shepherd. Let’s close with one final good news note. Jesus is the “great shepherd of the sheep.” It is the job of the shepherd to get the sheep where they are supposed to go. It’s good news that Jesus is your shepherd. As you think about the year ahead, think about the great leader, provider, protector and savior that you have in Jesus. To close read Psalm 23. Pause at each verse to thank God for how he is your shepherd.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  – Psalms 23

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