Have you all seen the film Braveheart? Good film. There is one particular scene in the film I like. The Scottish Army are assembled and looking at their opponents, a wee bit doubtful of their chances of winning and are about to turn round when Wallace rides on with his face painted blue and white and gives is probably fictional speech.
“You’ve got to fight as free men, and free men you are.
“What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? Fight and you may die, run and you’ll live, at least a while. And dying in your bed many years from now would you be willing to trade all your days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom.”
It’s all very passionate stuff.
We’re getting very close to Christmas, only just round the corner. Went to see my little girl in the nativity….you know shepherds, kings, donkeys, inn keepers etc etc. All very pretty, but quite unlike the original scene, I imagine.
I was reminded of that passage in Luke 4 that shows us that Jesus came with a huge agenda, and it was a freedom agenda. A massive message for the poor, for the captive, for the sick, for the blind, for the stranger, the lonely, the whoever….actually, for me. Jesus is declaring his intentions to bring release and freedom where it matters most…to the very heart of who we are. Freedom from our sin that presses against us, separates us, and freedom from ourselves who so often mess things up. However, this isn’t just something he started working out later in his life and through his death on the cross.
God made a huge statement to us when he worked it out for Jesus to be born in a manger. On that night, I don’t reckon it was much of the case of the typical manger scene. I reckon it was a cold, smelly, dirty, messy barn…totally not the place where you’d want to give birth to your first born, and certainly not one fit for Jesus as the King of Kings.
I’m encouraged by the muck, because it shows me that God meant business with Jesus. Yes, he wants to bring great messages for the poor, the oppressed, the captive, sick and blind…but most of all, he was willing, 14 years ago, for the presence of Jesus to be born in the muck, sin and mess of my life.
He stood before me, as a young guy willing to run away from life and said I’m here to fight for you, in you and through you. In the bible, the gospel writer John puts it all in perspective with one sentence. He said, God became human and made his dwelling among us….or, in other words, God became one of us and moved in next door. God came as a smelly, burping, puking, screaming baby into a dark dingy, smelly, animal infested barn to a young woman who was just about grasping what it was all about supported by step-dad, Joseph, consumed with the thoughts of what his neighbours would be saying now.
This Jesus grew up, not to be a big religious hot shot with a big hat, cape and an attitude to match with chauffeur driven camels, but a simple carpenter come wandering rabbi who had no-where to call home, who was hated by the authorities and misunderstood by everyone he was close to. Crucified as a criminal on a roman cross as he died for the very reason for which he was sent in the first place.
Instead of coming to the world as a saint with bright lights behind his head, he comes like a man carrying our bail money on our back. John encourages us to recognise that we are in need of a real Jesus.
John later tells us that God loved the world so much, that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The best way of having a smashing Christmas is to allow Jesus to pay your fine, turn away from your sin, trust in Jesus to bail you out so that when you stand before God as the judge he will be happy to let you go free because your debt has been paid. The biggest challenge of Christmas is to look beyond the baby and see the cross.
Have a blessed Christmas, have a peaceful Christmas…but most of all, have a real Christmas!