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This Christmas

Two days to Christmas. If you have little children, isn’t it great how they just love Christmas? They can’t wait for the presents, going to grandma’s house, sitting on Santa’s lap, putting up the Christmas tree. Christmas for a kid is generally the best time of the year. Unfortunately, as we grow through life, we oftentimes experience some of the pain that life can deal us. And for some, Christmas goes from being the high time of the year to a very difficult time.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “You know, I just tolerate the holidays.” Some say, “I just hope to survive the holidays.” Maybe you’ve experienced some Christmas pain—maybe you’re experiencing it right now.

Let’s be honest. Christmas time often forces us to face relationship challenges we otherwise try and avoid. It’s amazing that those we love the most can often hurt us the most, and we can them as well. Many of us, if we were to deal face-to-face with some family issues, we could do nothing but just weep loudly. But the sad thing is this: It is easy to slip into a cycle of continuing the hurt.

What if you have the ability to break the cycle? It is a choice. We’re not talking about feelings. When someone hurts you, chances are you are not going to wake up one day and say, “O, man, I’ve been hurt most of my life. I just feel like loving today.” The choice is to do what God’s Word tells us even when we don’t feel like it.

When we’ve been hurt, we can choose to PRAY. We are going to choose to pray for those who’ve hurt us. Your prayers may or may not affect the person who hurt you, but your prayers will affect you. You cannot pray for someone else without God doing a work in your heart. Praying for those who have hurt you—this is what Jesus said. He said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). This doesn’t mean they are let off the hook and don’t face any consequences, but it does mean you are releasing them over to God, and you are being set free.

The second thing is going to be even more difficult, but it flows right out of the first biblical choice: When we’ve been hurt, we choose to FORGIVE. Why is this so important? This is what Jesus said: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Wow! Is that a sobering verse or what?

Free yourself! Go! Get it done! Now! And why is this so important? Because nothing else matters like relationships. Nothing. Do your part and trust God to do the rest. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

What’s on the other side of forgiveness? The miracle of grace. The miracle of healing. The miracle of freedom. I pray that for this Christmas, there will be a true Christmas miracle that comes to your heart to pray for and forgive those you need to forgive. We’ve been forgiven through Jesus Christ, and it’s because of that He grants us the power to forgive.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

A First Century Scandal – Not Your Typical Hallmark Movie

This month I’ve seen enough Hallmark Christmas movies to last a lifetime. Three. I’m amazed at how popular Hallmark movies have become, so I did a little research to find out why.

According to forbes.com, “Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas slate of holiday movies delivered more households and female viewers than ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox on Saturday nights in the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot during its nine-week run. The movies attracted an average audience of 3.5 million viewers and 641,000 women aged 25 to 54, the target demographic.” The article goes on to say, “Hallmark can afford to take the jokes about its movies in stride. According to the company, Hallmark earned $600 million in advertising revenue last year.”

Not bad. Although, it will be interesting to see what effect this week’s controversial news will have on the bottom line.

So, why are these predictable, mawkish, and saccharine movies so popular? (And there are plenty of other choice adjectives I could use.) Bill Abbott, the C.E.O. of Crown Media, Hallmark’s entertainment company, believes their success is in the familiar, nostalgic scripts where you “get away from politics . . . from everything in your life that is problematic and negative, and [you] feel like there are people out there who are good human beings that could make you feel happy to be part of the human race” (newyorker.com).

Sounds like the Blue Pill from The Matrix. Take the pill, and you will wake up in your own bed with no worries and a normal life.

When I read the Christmas story from Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels, I see two teenagers who took the Red Pill. Joseph and Mary chose faithful obedience to God, knowing it would cost them everything—reputation, friendships, and family support.

Undoubtedly, their story was a first-century scandal. Nine-months of awkward explanations. Furtive glances from those you once called friends. According to Roman Law, the male head of household was the only one required for a Roman census. So, why did Joseph drag his pregnant wife seventy miles to Bethlehem? Could it be to spare her the ignominy of giving birth in her hometown?

Philip Yancey concludes, “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism. I am impressed that when the Son of God became a human being he played by the rules, harsh rules: small towns do not treat kindly to young boys who grow up with questionable paternity” (The Jesus I Never Knew, 32).

Truth be told, the story of the Incarnation would more likely be aired on HBO than Hallmark. But, whichever channel you prefer, let us all rejoice that a young, unmarried couple took on such profound risk which has given us all such prodigious reward.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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