Meanderings of a Minister


A Strange Reading for Christmas
December 20, 2011, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , ,

At a time when much of our nation is singing, “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night”, I found myself reading the book of James.  I have been reading the Bible through once again and I happen to come across the book of James again.  At first, I thought, “What a strange reading for Christmas time!”  The more I think about it, this is the perfect reading for Christmas.  Let me explain.

First, James was the brother of Jesus, but did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah until after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  It took something more than just faith in Jesus’ words to convince James to follow his half-brother as Lord.  For many people, Christmas is a time of empty words.  They are words about being thankful for Jesus’ birth, but no belief in Who Jesus is.  He is Lord.  He is Sovereign.  He is Savior.  He is God the Son.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but through Him.  He is not one of many ways, but THE WAY!

Next, the focus of the book of James is holding on to Jesus, in persecution and tribulation, while He is holding on to you.  For many, Christmas is a time that reminds them of the pain of life.  They remember lost loved ones, broken families, isolation and even bad financial choices that have led them to be unable to celebrate as they would desire.  James challenges us to hold on to Jesus and to cry out to Him when we don’t understand the difficulty we are going through.  This is called faith.  Many people get mad at God when facing difficulty.  James says, if you are a believer, this is the time of forging the strength of life and faith.  Hold on!

Lastly, and this might just be the most important lesson of James, he says that faith without works to show others (and ourselves) that our faith is real, is just fooling ourselves.  Now, that is not to say that works can save us.  No matter how much offering we give, how many church services we attend, how many “Hail, Mary”’s we say, pilgrimages to Mecca, years spent riding a bicycle as a missionary, or magazines we hand out can save us.  Salvation has always been, and always will be, be grace, through faith and not of works.  James is not telling us to do enough to save ourselves.

So, what IS James telling us?  That it is not enough to pay lip service to God.  He is not mocked.  He knows the difference between a professor and a possessor.  He knows the difference between someone that sings “Joy to the World” and someone that has embraced the Joy of knowing the One Who made the world.  If we truly believe in God, then that belief, that faith, should produce works that indicate that belief and faith.  James goes on to say that religion that is pure and undefiled is that which cares for widows and orphans and remains unstained by the world.  At Christmas time, this is extremely important and difficult.  What does this mean?  How about giving gifts, but not expecting to receive any?  How about giving to those that cannot benefit you in any way?  How about giving to God by giving to others?  But it is more than that.

During this Christmas season, consider how we might give ourselves more fully to God.  Would you join me in praying to God this prayer?

“God, I want to know You so intimately and deeply that all doubt is driven away, both in my own heart and soul and in the minds of those that observe my life.  I don’t want this so that I can have people praise me, but so that they will praise You.”

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