We will begin the Christmas season at church today. For the next few weeks we count down to the celebratory cry, "For unto us a Child is born..." By God's grace, I would like to take a journey together that will leave us in greater awe of the Birth.
Anyone who hears me speak, quickly knows the deep influence my dad had on my life. A simple man in so many ways, he exemplified what a genuine Christian looks like. He befriended the poor as well as the rich. He wasn't enamored with the glitter and glamor that so often become the carrot that pulls people around the race track of life.
Dad was consumed with the need to do the right thing in each situation. He told me that he once had a conversation with a car dealer he knew. Somehow the subject of honesty came up and dad said, "I would rather be cheated out of a dollar than cheat someone else out of a dime." The car dealer hung his head and responded, "I can't really say that."
People came from ranches as far as 100 miles away to have dad repair their vehicles. He always had work to do in his independent shop and canceled his Yellow Pages ad a year after he opened because he had plenty of business (and he was skeptical that people found his garage that way). I remember asking him why he didn't hire more people. His answer: "Son, I managed other mechanics when I worked for the dealership and never knew if they were really doing the work they were assigned. I made checklists and the mechanics signed off on them, but I would find out that they were taking shortcuts to work faster and make more money. In the meantime, my reputation was on every car that went out that door." By working for himself, he had no trouble standing by his craftsmanship because he knew what he had done.
I have taken a couple of minutes to tell you about my dad because of the way he talked the last few years of his life. Virtually every time the conversation came up, he spoke words reflecting John Newton: Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!" Dad would often tell how overwhelmed he felt that Jesus Christ died for a sinner like him. At the time, I knew the words were true of me, too. But I admit they hadn't really hit home yet.
As the years pass, I become ever more aware of my own heart. I have come to understand that even many of the "good" things I have done have been done for the wrong motives. Though I have sometimes wept and spoken the words to Jesus, "I love you," I have a growing realization of how shallow they are. The Savior Himself said, "If you love Me, keep my commands." John, the "disciple Jesus loved" added "The person who doesn't love others, does not know God." In both these areas, I have frequently fallen short.
The road to Bethlehem is meant to be a journey of humility. It was a humble Jewish girl who was chosen to be His mother, lowly shepherds who were called to the birthing "room" and a simple carpenter who raised Him. For you and me to fully grasp Christmas, we must approach it as desperate sinners. Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost For His Highest (November 28), said...
There is a certain pride in man that will give and give, but to come and accept is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom, I will give myself in consecration, I will do anything, but do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So, friend, let US -- YOU AND ME -- go to Bethlehem with broken hearts. Then we can be filled with hope and awe!