Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas, only the beginning, not the end

It just got worse and worse. The Tiger Woods story. What a shocker! I really did not get too deep into the stories as I thought this was just another case of a sporting icon whom we have come to realize has - as many others have shown before him - " feet of clay". And is very mortal and subject to the same temptations that all mankind struggles with. But man, this guy almost sounds like a pervert. At least based on the media reports so far, and many may be
" jazzed up" to help promote sales. When you stop to think however, this kind of ( precipitous) fall from grace has been the lot of so many high profile persons when the deeds of darkness are brought into the light. So why are we surprised!
The same mad virus of evil, a different strain but equally virulent , has afflicted many of the youths in my country. This week some of them shot to death an elderly couple who I met recently. Just today, another one disguised as a driver of a minibus transporting unsuspecting passengers, tried to run a red light and smashed into a car in a filter lane, resulting in one of his passengers dying - 200 yards from where another two drivers of the same mode of transport, and afflicted with the same madness, smashed into each other two weeks ago. The result? Three dead the same night, and over time. To date, the count has risen to seven. So whether it is sex, or murder or mad driving or abusive behaviour on account of drug use, greed for money and power as we know only too well in Jamaica and in New York, there are so many kinds of evil just waiting to enter and express itself in our brothers and sisters, our sporting and entertainment icons and our leaders. So what does all of this have to do with Christmas? Everything as the babe in a manager came to die - for the sin of all mankind. Those of Tiger Woods, of Magic Johnson, of Michael Jordan, of Charles " locked up in prison " Barkley, of Andre " drug user" Agassi, of Serena " meltdown" Williams, of Flo Jo, of " hands of god" Maradonna, of the " shottas " in Jamaica - the gunmen - of the mad minibus drivers, of Buju Banton, of Bob Marley, of " gully " Mavado, of " gaza Vibes Kartel, of Norman Manley, of Alexander Bustamante of Michael Manley, of Edward George Seaga ( four of our former political leaders). And less we forget for my sins and yours.
As the Bible declares that " all of sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" And further that,
" the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus". That's why the warning in the epistle of John is so important, " If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is far from us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9. NIV

So Christmas came, not just because God so loved the world and desires peace for all mankind - that's the first part. But more importantly Jesus came because of how God views sin.
That's the dramatic message in a meditation I read this week which, if I had forgotten why, I will forget no more.


" My God, my God why have you forgotten me"?

IN WORD Are you aware that every crack of the whip on Jesus' back, every thorn piercing His scalp, every stroke of the hammer and thrust of the spear is what god thought about our sin? Have you considered that every time Jesus struggled to breathe, cried out in thirst, tried to heave His body up against the pull of gravity, it was punishment deserved. Not by Him, of course. By us.
Does that sound harsh? Surely we aren't all that bad, are we ? We're human of course, and therefore imperfect; but do we really deserve such punishment?
According to the Bible we do. And if we really think about it, as well intentioned as we assume we are, we can all recall times when we have shunned the personality of the Holy for something that utterly violated it. On purpose. What cosmic treachery! We are foolish if we think it was just an innocent mistake and that God will overlook it. Look ( beyond Christmas) at the Cross to see what God thought about it.
Jesus knew the answer to His question in verse 34, even as He asked it. He was not seeking the divine reason behind His suffering; he was pointing us to it. The quoted psalm that begins with this cry of anguish ( Psalm 22) speaks of God's deliverance of all His people. That's the answer. He was forsaken so that we wouldn't be.

IN DEED " God man him who had no sin to be sin for us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). Whenever your faith grows apathetic, whenever our sense of His grace grows dim, whenever your mercy towards others finds its limits, think of what of that. Contemplate the staggering absurdity of the infinitely Holy suffering the consequences for those who rejected His holiness. Let your cry become " My God, why haven't You forsaken me?" and be grateful. let His grace amaze you and prompt your zealous, passionate worship.

The reality is that unless we love Jesus for reasons as expressed above, Christmas will only be an opportunity to share with family and friends, to be extra nice to those in great need, and to dress up and go to church. Unless we too declare " My God, my God, why have I forsaken You" and allow the writer of Psalm 51 to speak to us deep in our hearts and then elicit the response:
" Against you, you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight....psalm 51:4 NIV
then Christmas will have no deep and sustained meaning for us. We all need to pray that the advice of Oswald Chambers in a meditation from which I was led to write a text message and send out, becomes our experience this Christmas as the Christ child comes to us again.

....The entrance into the kingdom (of God) is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man's respectable goodness; then the Holy Spirit, Who produces these agonies, begins the formation of the Son of God in the life...
So as we remember and pray for Tiger Woods and the wicked gunmen in Jamaica, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iraq and all others afflicted by the virus of sin, including ourselves, let us this Christmas remember in the words of one of our leading gospel singers that " This island needs Jesus". So does Tiger Woods and all unredeemed mankind whose public and once exclusively private sins provoke so much outrage. And the Blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us from all our sins known to others and known only to God. So thank God for Christmas. Thank God for Jesus. Bless Jesus for Good Friday and thank God for Easter. All because of Christmas.
What's the best gift then that we can pray for others? That the panging pains of repentance may come crashing into his or her respectable goodness. Amen