Life matters: A Christmas meditation

By Rob Renfroe –

We Christians believe the most remarkable things. Incredible things, really.

We believe that God exists. That’s our most important belief. But it’s not the most surprising or incredible.

We believe that he came to earth as a human being. We believe that as a human being he died on a cross.

Those beliefs are incredible. But most incredible of all is that God came to earth, took on human flesh inside a woman’s womb, experienced hunger and thirst and pain, grew to be a man, and finally died on a cross because we matter to him.

You matter to him. I matter to him.

Of everything we believe about God, that is certainly the most incredible.

“If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup,” wrote Philip Yancey many years ago in his book, Prayer: Does It Make A Difference. “Even now two Voyager spacecrafts are hurtling toward the edge of the solar system at a rate of 100,000 miles per hour. For almost three decades they have been speeding away from earth, approaching a distance of 9 billion miles. When engineers beam a command to the spacecraft at the speed of light, it takes thirteen hours to arrive. Yet this vast neighbor of our sun – in truth the size of a coffee cup – fits along with several hundred billion other stars and their minions in the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100 billion such galaxies in the universe. To send a light-speed message to the edge of that universe would take 15 billion years.”

What did the Psalmist say? “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

The great Christian mind of G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “All men matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.” The God who created just the part of the universe that we’re aware of must be incredible. His power, his wisdom, his imagination, he must be absolutely, incredibly beyond our understanding. And that God, the God who is big enough to speak all of that into existence and hold it in the palm of his hand, says you matter to him. He says I matter to him.

1. Your life matters. That’s part of the Christmas story. In the person of Jesus Christ, God became an infant, was born in a Bethlehem stable, walked among us, went to a cross, and died the most painful and shameful death the Roman Empire could devise because my life matters to God, because your life matters to God.

If it weren’t true, it would be the height of human arrogance, to make such a claim: that a God like the one who created the universe cares about creatures like us. But we believe that we matter to God because that’s what Christmas tells us.

2. It matters what you do with your life. How you think about life makes a difference. And people view their lives in very different ways. For some life is a game to win. For others it’s a challenge to overcome. For others it’s a riddle to solve. I’ve known men and women who see life as a sentence to bear, or a struggle to survive. Some are more positive. They see life as an adventure to enjoy. And what you think about life will determine what you do with the life you have.

Here’s what I’ve concluded. Life is a trust. Life is a gift that God places in our care. We have been entrusted with this most precious thing called a human life. And like any gift, it can be wasted or squandered. Or it can be used for the purpose it was intended. And whatever we choose to do with our lives, it matters. It really does matter. Why? Because we matter to God.

3. Every life matters. One of the amazing facets of the Christmas story is the wide range of persons it involves. It involves a Jewish priest named Zachariah, who was told that his son, John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the Messiah’s coming.

It involves wise men from the east. Though we don’t know much about them, they were wealthy intellectuals, certainly not Jewish.

Of course it involves Joseph and Mary, part of what today we would call the working class. And it also involved the shepherds. We think of shepherds and we think of salt of the earth types, caring and strong, close to the earth and probably close to God. But in the time of Jesus, that’s not how people thought of shepherds, and that’s not how they thought of themselves. Just the opposite. Shepherds were assumed to be dishonest and immoral.

In the whole world, you would find no occupation more despised than that of the shepherd. To the list of those who could not give testimony in court, add robbers, extortionists, shepherds, and all who are suspect in money matters. Their testimony was invalid under all circumstances.

For shepherds, tax collectors, and revenue farmers, it was difficult to make repentance. Why? Because shepherds routinely led their flocks across land that belonged to others, eating grass and drinking water along the way.

Why were these undeserving, marginalized shepherds included in the first Christmas? Not just included, but given an angelic invitation when the world slept to be the first to visit the newborn Christ? Because Christmas is for everyone. And its message is that everyone matters to God.

4. It matters how we treat others. “Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare,” writes C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.“All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities … that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.… No flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love….”

I love the line: “There are no ‘ordinary’ people.”

Everyone has a soul. Everyone is eternal. Everyone is on a journey that will lead them to God and to a destiny of beauty and splendor. Or they’re on a journey that will lead them away from God and to a destiny that is hideous and dark. And regardless of where they are or where they are heading at the moment, everyone matters to God. That means it matters how we treat others.

God loves everyone, none more than the other. But if you read the Bible and if you look at the life of Jesus, you will find that God has a special concern for those like the shepherds—the lost, the least, the looked-over, and the left out.

5. Christmas tells us how to live a life that matters. There are many ways we can live, but I want to point out a few specific ways.

  • We can live life without God.Many people do just this. Even many of us in the church. We may believe in God, but that’s as far as it goes. We live the same way we would if we didn’t believe in him. We run after the same things the world runs after: possessions, position, power, and pleasure.

We think we’re unique. We think we’ll do something that makes us stand out. We’re writing our own story. A self-centered story of a life that is as hollow as it is shallow.

  • We can live with God as a part of our story.That’s the way most church folks live. They’re living their lives and then somehow, some way, they figure out that there is a God and that they need God. And they ask God into their lives, they accept Christ, they trust him as Savior, they go to church, they give some money, and they ask God to give them strength to live a better life.

But if we’re not careful, it’s still primarily our story. We write the script, we determine our goals, we stay in charge of the storyline of our lives. We’ve written God into the story. And he’s there to give us advice and direction and strength. But our lives are still about our stories. However, there is a better way.

  • We can become a part of God’s story. Some folks get it. They understand that true meaning comes when we become more concerned about God’s story than we are about our stories.

God’s story is a story of redemption. It’s a story that began when the first human beings broke fellowship with God. And God decided that he would make a way for us to come back to him.

It’s the great storyline of the universe. Since it began, kingdoms have come and gone. Empires have risen and fallen. And all of them claimed to be the story. But now they’re gone, and God’s story goes on.

It’s the story of God weeping over the broken branches that were once his family tree. And it’s the story of God acting in history to bring his children back to him through miracles, signs and wonders, through priests and prophets.

It’s Mary saying, “Yes, Lord, I’ll join your story. May it be to me as you have said.” It’s Joseph saying, “Yes, Lord, I’ll be a part of your story, and take Mary as my wife.”

It’s the story of a baby in a manger.

It’s the story of a sacrifice on a cross.

It’s the story of a tomb that’s empty and a Savior that’s risen.

There are a hundred ways to be a part of God’s story. You’ll do it in different ways than I do it. You’ll do it in ways I can’t do it.

What’s important is that we do it. Whether it’s teaching a Bible study or leading a small group, sharing Christ with your neighbors, working with an outreach ministry, building churches, loving orphans, or some other way, what’s important is that our lives join God in his story, the big story of redemption.

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News. 

 

 

 

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