I come from a community/culture where church was canceled twice in 10 years (or something to that effect). Snow storms come and go five months out of the year and my pastor allows his congregation to make their own decisions about traveling to church. And we do (did, in my case); we are experts in knowing what are cars can and cannot handle and what our stress levels can and cannot handle. It was rare (I actually can’t recollect any instances) that someone would get stuck or run off the road because they made a poor decision concerning their church-travel.
I remember one Sunday just after Christmas two years ago that we were already getting quite a bit of snow and scheduled to get more. I wanted more than anything to get to church (it’s a favorite of mine), so I left an hour early and drove all eleven miles in second gear. Smart? Probably not, but that’s the culture I lived in. We didn’t let the snow dictate our lives.
Fast forward a few years and a few hundred miles later. I don’t live in upstate NY anymore. I live in Delaware. A place where it’s merely chilly all winter long and snow falls two inches in February — if you’re lucky. Yesterday, the 19th of December, Delaware receives the biggest December snow storm in 100 years (I think that’s what the news guy said). Two feet of fluffy powder.
My dad blamed it all on me. He threatened to send me back to NY.
I’ve been home for about a month now and I think this has been the biggest culture shock. Two feet of snow and Delaware is in a state of emergency. People don’t know how to handle it, what to do with it, how to play in it, how their cars handle in it. Which is why church is canceled. People get in snow related accidents because they don’t have a clue.
Honestly, I’m ok with church being canceled. I don’t think I remember how to handle my car in the snow and wouldn’t feel comfortable driving. In lieu of not going to church, I decided to do a little church here at home. Several things were lacking: getting dressed, a community of believers worshiping around me and those poinsettias that decorate the building this time of year (although I do have one in my room). But something was not lacking: the Word of God. I listened to a sermon preached by my pastor up in NY. It was good to hear his voice again, to hear a charge to the congregation that I know so well. You can listen to it here, if you’re interested.
All of the activities this morning reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do here. So because church is canceled, follow me please to 1 Corinthians 13. We have an exercise to do.
Here we have a description of what love is:
“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
We are told to love God and others by Jesus himself and then the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians what love looks like.
I recently listened to another sermon by my pastor in NY and he suggested this exercise: in 1 Cor. 13, replace the word ‘love’ with your name and see how your life measures up to our description of love. I may feel that I love well, but when my attitude is held against the blaring light of scripture, I fail.
See here: Christina is patient and kind; Christina does not envy or boast; she is not arrogant or rude. She does not insist in her own way; she is not irritable or resentful; she does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but she rejoices with the truth. Christina bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
There is no way that I measure up to that. I cannot meet those standards when it comes to my relationship with God. I cannot meet those standards when it comes to my relationship with others. Not being able to meet these standards is worthy of punishment from the almighty, holy and righteous God.
This is where Jesus comes in. Romans 5:
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Jesus took the punishment I deserve (not only for failing to love, but for the vast, uncountable other atrocities I have displayed against God), so that I may live for Him fully without guilt or need to continue sinning.
This, my friends, is the wonderful mystery that surrounds Christmas. It’s not just God’s birthday. To simply call it such is removing this day we celebrate from it’s intended glory.
God became man. Creator became His creation. In order that He may reconcile sinners to a holy God.
These are lyrics from a Sovereign Grace Christmas song, How Sweet the Day. It’s a favorite and sums up this post quite well.
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How sweet the day when Christ was born
When God Himself took human form
He came to wash our sins away
Our death to die, our debt to pay
How sweet the day when Hope appeared
The One who frees us from our fears
He came to break the power of sin
And give us power to follow Him
Oh sing for joy, lift up your voice
Let us sing for joy, the whole earth rejoice
Let us sing for joy to the Son
For Jesus our Savior has come
How sweet the day when Christ returns
We’ll see the One for whom we yearn
Then we’ll look full upon His face
Our hearts will burst with songs of praise
Come, Lord Jesus, come