Christmas in Kenya is, in some ways, much like any other place. People work all year to have a few days or weeks off from work. Everyone rushes “home”. For most of our pastors, “home” means going up-country to the rural areas of Kenya. It seems no one living in Nairobi actually calls it “home”. Home is where your ancestors were born, where you and your relatives still own land, and where you gather for every special occasion…births, coming of age, marriage, burials and holidays. And to be “home” means to be in the midst of what is familiar, comfortable and consoling. The highlight, for those fortunate enough, is seeing and embracing elderly parents, after a long absence. That’s the best Christmas…whether in Nairobi or New York City. Yet, truth be told, most of our pastors come back from Christmas with testimonies of turbulence. The ungodly behavior, the wayward sibling, the confrontational cousin, the persistent poverty and so on. It is something all of us can relate to. No matter how “well” things are going, regardless of how picture-perfect we arrange the celebration of Christmas day, there is one thing we can accurately predict: an undeniable sense of let-down. It happened when we were children… if only for carnal reasons. Yet it continues as an ongoing theme into our adulthood. Indeed, the sense of disappointment seems to increase in tone and intensity with each passing year. We privately pine as the day passes by…“Is this what Christmas with the family has come to?! It’s so pathetic. So disappointing…if not outright aggravating. I can scarcely believe it’s supposed to be a Joyous celebration.” Why do we all feel this way? Why does “coming home” on Christmas become more of a chore and less of a highlight? Perhaps, just consider for a moment, it’s supposed to be that way: mixed emotions, unfulfilled expectations, and a lingering sense that there is something definitely wrong. After all, Jesus didn’t arrive on Christmas day to celebrate anything with the family of mankind…He came because we have a problem down here! Indeed, the very need for Christmas day confirms there was something critically “wrong” within the “family” of mankind. An undeniable defect in our relationship with our Divine Father and Creator. Jesus came as an infant, immersing Himself into the very “dysfunctional” family of mankind. He came on a mission. Sent by His Father. And time was short. The mission required nothing less than everything He had…His Perfect Humility, His Perfect Submission, His very Life. But even more costly was the price He and His Father would have to pay. Literally removed from His Father, Jesus was severed from the Presence of His Father…the most Perfect, Holy and unblemished Love relationship that ever was or will be. Jesus
left His “home” and His Father…to redeem us back into the “family” of God…which we had despised and rejected through our sin. If anyone should be disappointed at Christmas-time…it most obviously should be this Father and Son. Not us. Yet it didn’t end there. Just a few short years later, Jesus would willingly accept upon Himself the very reasons and causes of all that had severed our relationship with the Father. Jesus Himself became Sin…that we might be freed from it, and reconciled back into the “family” of God… For He (God the Father) Made Him (Jesus) Who knew no Sin To become Sin for us, That we might become The righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5.21
In that light, Jesus got the proverbial “raw end of the deal” on Christmas! At His expense, the family can be reconciled. We can “come home” to our Creator, our God and our Lord…because Jesus was willing to be cursed from the family of God for our sakes. This is not some holiday card hyperbole. This is literally what happened…this, indeed, is the essence of Christmas at the First Advent of Christ. Family reconciled…but at the greatest price. Joyful reunion…but through the rejection of The Innocent One. Every family member restored…by the ultimate unselfishness of the One who had never rebelled. Christ came on Christmas Day…that we might be redeemed, restored and reunited with God Himself. In that view, there’s nothing disappointing about Christmas Day at all! So where does that leave us today? How could that possibly translate into something Practical…something to Change in us this Christmas? Consider, perhaps, your own family situation. What sacriﬁce of your own might foster reconciliation? What words could be spoken to end an undercurrent of hostility and separation? What might “laying down” of your own desires, agendas, comforts and satisfactions do to… “…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children To their fathers.” Malachi 4.6
It will require nothing less than sincere and selfless sacrifice this Christmas. Amongst those
often times most difficult to accept and love…our extended families. Families with skeptics, mockers, recalcitrants, hypocrites, drunkards…some of whom may be extremely unloving, unkind, ungrateful, unforgiving…at best uninterested. When “coming home for Christmas” means meeting up with some of these…we would rather just stay “home” within our own secluded clique of comfort. But we can’t. Not if we’re following in His Steps. The selfless steps He took for “family” to be reconciled to our Father…and one another. Don’t be overly disappointed if it doesn’t go picture-perfect. After all, we contributed to eventually putting that “baby in the manger” on a Cross…by our own personal resistance, rebellion and rejection of His sacrificial offer of reconciliation. Just show up. And let God use your presence in your family… regardless of the uncomfortable circumstances. Just like the baby Jesus…born in a manger, in a chaotic corner of a uninterested, dark and fallen world…infiltrating the rebellious family of mankind… …beginning with nothing but His loving Presence.
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