shared by Cara Murray
My favorite author is Brennan Manning. There is no question about it. Each time I read one of his books I feel like it was written for me. Earlier this year the pastor of my church in Chicago recommended a Brennan Manning book called, “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus.” I read it before I came to Uganda and am so glad I brought it with me. Out of my two bags and 100 pounds that I brought, all the Brennan Manning books made the cut. The last section of this book focuses on the significance of Christmas and what the birth of Christ means to us. In one of the last chapters called, “Christmas Means Freedom, “ Manning writes:
The wailing Infant bears witness to a God whose Word is fresh and alive, who is not the defender of the old, the already-settled, the well-established and familiar…
This Christmas such a God might well expect us to be creatively responsive and thus truly Christlike. Indeed, He might call us to set free captives bound by loneliness and isolation, to share our hope with prisoners of gloom and despair, to invite the unlovely to our table, to celebrate our freedom in forgetfulness about our comfort and convenience, to cry the Gospel by ministering to widows and orphans, to be the church by bringing soup to the poor, to ignore conventional expectations, to call His Son out of Egypt once more.
I get the sense that we are on the verge of a major change in our Church. I have had several discussions with friends and family over the need to ‘think-outside-the-box’ and challenge the conventional ways of doing things. I think Christmas is the perfect time to start making those changes. I know many people take time to serve the poor and buy gifts for those in need during the holidays and I think that is great. However, with that said, those things are often times secondary to everything else we do for Christmas. They are secondary to gifts, grab bags, turkeys, holiday parties and cookies. I think this year we need to switch the order and make Christmas primarily about the exact things Jesus did while He was on Earth. He spent time with lepers, widows, the lonely, the children and the hopeless.
I wonder why more people don’t spend their Christmas doing these things. Are they worried they won’t get the new shoes they’ve been waiting for or the new set of tools? Are they worried it won’t ‘feel like Christmas’? What would it be like to visit a nursing home on Christmas and share Jesus with those that have no visitors? What would it be like to bring Christmas dinner to a family without food? What would it be like to walk the streets of Chicago and hand out gloves and hats and share the good news of our Savior with those living on the streets? I actually know the answers to these questions – it would be absolutely amazing. I think if people did it once they would never go back.
I pray that this Christmas we would look to Jesus first, focus on the freedom that comes with the naked, humble, vulnerable baby in the manger. Jesus wasn’t known for doing things the traditional way, so why should we?
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13