God’s Gifts: Baby Jesus

given on Sunday, December 29, after an ice storm canceled the Dec. 22 service 

            Journaling is a dying art, yet it is so important for sociologists in their studies of humanity.  It is also key to historians as they search for secrets of what happened in different time periods.  For families, discovering a journal from a previous generation is a rare and priceless gift.

Opening up the gospel of Luke, his own words show that this book is much like a journal incorporating his personal experience and study of Jesus’ ministry.  The audience is clearly defined as Theophilus, a personal friend whom he is trying to share the story in an honest, logical manner.

Imagine how his family, his grandchildren, and even generations later must have felt that their patriarch knew Jesus, had walked the paths where Jesus walked.  And imagine how we, over 2,000 years later, feel if Luke had not written his thoughts about Jesus.  Does this journal provide the foundation for lasting faith?

Personally, much of my understanding of who I am is based on the words of people who reported what their lives were.  Reading journals, biographies and autobiographies, paints a picture of the generations that preceded me.  I am a product of generations and reading their words shapes who I am.

Luke was educated, he had opportunities that others might never have had, still he had a story to tell.  The words we read today are the words translated generation after generation as his story continues to reach out to others like Theophilus.  The question we must each ask ourselves is whether or not we have shared the first Christmas story with our family and friends.

Luke said it so clearly:

1 Many people have attempted to write about the things that have taken place among us.  . . .  I myself have carefully looked into everything from the beginning. So it seemed good also to me to write down an orderly report of exactly what happened. I am doing this for you, most excellent Theophilus. I want you to know that the things you have been taught are true.

Are we able to say we have done the same thing?  Have we felt driven to provide those in our lives The Story?

Over the past 25 years, I have struggled to continue the faith story of my parents.  I never questioned our weekly schedule of church on Sunday, choir on Wednesday, or even the daily grace given at the table every time we sat down as a family meal whether breakfast, lunch or supper.  My parents simply placed God in our lives almost like He was a physical family member.

Luke writes The Story in a manner that reaches out to me.  He makes the story come alive and his arguments convinces readers of the reality of Jesus, of the lessons Jesus taught, and the historical record of this man’s life—born, lived, and destroyed—alongside the Israelites and the Gentiles, not to mention world citizens traveling and moving around a vital economic center during that time period.

Who has written The Story since Luke’s gospel?  Are there journals to read since that time that continues teaching the generations about Jesus, about the New Covenant God made through the life of Jesus?  Can we continue to see the effect of The Story has made on humanity?

The research continues, but the answer is yes.  Sometimes the horror created by un-Christian decisions crowds out the story of God’s love, but even when humanity is at it worst, God’s love remains.  The only way is to study, to seek out the Christian story and learn how it continues to sustain humanity.

Luke’s story shares an eloquent narrative of the Messiah’s birth.  It is artfully written, has been translated and preserved as closely as possible to its original language.  And even the most gifted historians, linguists, sociologists, anthropologists, and authors continue to weave The Story through the generations, the centuries, or even the millenniums.

Today we have a responsibility—to continue telling the story.  Not only do we have to live our faith privately and publically, we have to tell the story.

Telling the story does not have to be difficult, but we need to step it up.  The results are worth it.

First, live your faith openly.  I was shocked this month to hear myself wishing family, friends, and even store clerks and others a “happy holiday.”  I realized that for over 30 years, I had trained myself to say “Happy Holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

Why?  I actually had to face the fact that as a teacher, I had lost Christmas because I was told to be politically correct.  Once I realized it, I had to consciously work on changing it.  I would off-handedly respond “Happy Holiday” and then as I said it, stumbled and shifted to “Merry Christmas.”

Secondly, establish a weekly routine that places God first.  Think about scheduling church attendance, Bible study, or additional faith appointments before other time commitments.  Our culture is reflecting the lack of prioritizing faith by the scheduling of sporting events before church events.  No longer do school systems or other family events schedule around church.  Now church is scheduled around personal time choices.  We do not stand up and refuse to participate just because something is scheduled at a faith related commitment.

Thirdly, on a daily basis, do we live our faith 24 hours seven days a week?  Do we wake up and hear the verse echoing in our minds:  “Today is the day that the Lord has made, be glad and rejoice in it!”  Do we offer a table grace when we sit down to a meal—or do we skip the table and go straight to the couch potato position with the television blaring?  Do we close our day with an evening prayer asking forgiveness, for healing, for supplication or just thanks for the day.

And finally, consider Luke’s method—he used written word to continue telling the story.  We can do the same thing, even if it is a simple entry into a personal journal that can be read and shared and read again.  Maybe it does not seem important, but it is.  Who knows who might find that journal and read a life-changing message from it.

And this is a task I need to train myself to do.  I used to journal, I encouraged my mother to journal, now I have an aunt who has used a journal/planner, and now I work to have others begin a journal too.  This is a simply way to account how faith works in your life.

Journaling may not be something you are comfortable doing, but stop and consider how you can preserve and share how faith works in your life.  Maybe it is a record of blessings, maybe the calendar can hold key words to trigger memories.  Maybe it is the camera whether on the phone you carry or the tablet you use, or the photos you place in a scrapbook or album.

Luke wrote his faith in two books, the Gospel of Luke and Acts.  Through the ages, others have written their faith, too.  John Wesley, Martin Luther, Charles Wesley—in his hymns, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Corrie ten Baum, Anne Frank, Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Adam Hamilton, Bishop Schnase, and more.  We might not be gifted authors, but we have a story to tell.  Who knows when the next generation will find the record of faith we each have to share.  Our faith is our life, and it is our responsibility to live it and to share it.  It is our gift to the future to share the story of God’s gift, the baby Jesus.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for Luke, for all the gospels, for the Bible

that tells the story of your gifts from creation to the birth of a baby.

Thank you for all those disciples who carried the story into action

modeling lives that were filled with love and compassion.

Thank you for all those early followers who carried the Story

into new generations, into new lands, and into the future.

Lead us to reading the Story over and over again

so our generations learn to love one another.

Lead us to tell the Story to our families, to our friends, and to others

in order to learn the way to live our faith openly.

Lead us to preserve the Story as our generations pass it on

to the generations ahead keeping faith alive.  –Amen.

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