Monday, December 21, 2015

Linus


A few weeks ago I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas while Nancy put finishing touches on the Christmas tree. Watching the show has become a part of our annual Christmas tradition and may be part of your Christmas tradition as well. According to www.usatoday.com, A Charlie Brown Christmas celebrated 50 years on air making it the second longest running holiday show. It is second only to Rudolph, which has been televised one year longer. Charlie Brown makes us laugh and makes us think.

Charlie Brown certainly is the star of the show, but my favorite part of the show happens when Linus tells us the true meaning of Christmas as he quotes Luke 2. Linus is well read for a 5 year old and can speak deeply on matters of theology and philosophy. But, Linus is 5, and is beset by fears of the world around him. Linus is rarely seen without his security blanket despite protests from his sister, Lucy. Linus’s blanket made him invisible when Sally sought him as a boyfriend and became a weapon when Linus needed defense. Linus usually turns to his blanket when he is afraid.

On this night, Linus lets go of his blanket for a moment as he teaches us about peace and fear. The answer to what Christmas is all about is the birth of Jesus. Jesus has come to bring us peace and to replace our fears. Before we begin following Jesus, we are like Linus in that our fears are present in everyday aspects of our lives. We are afraid that we might disappoint people. We are afraid of economic collapse. We fear medical catastrophes. We fear removing the warning label from our pillows. We are afraid of what people might do to us. We fear death. In Christ all of our previous fears are removed and replaced with one, holy fear of Jesus. We fall at His feet and worship and we are filled with great peace. Like Linus we lay down our security blanket and ponder the simple wonder of the God who came down.

What worries and fears run through your mind this Christmas season? Walk with us to the hillside farm in Bethlehem lit by a sky full of stars. Gather around the manger with people from all walks of life, and hear the sound of animals as they settle in for the night. Look at this little baby and know that He came to this world for you. He came to replace your fears. He came to forgive your sins. He came to give you hope. He is here. Let your fears fade and worship before Him.

 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Freedom

In January of 1991 an original copy of the 200 year old Bill of Rights was on exhibit in Montgomery, Alabama. Despite my sister’s displeasure, I was selected during my sophomore year of high school to join her senior class on a field trip to see this historic collection.

For years I had studied about these archives and I was excited to see them first hand. I remember standing around the dense, protective glass of the documents and reading it as if it were the first time. 

The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution begins with the following words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” 

I had no idea at that time that I would one day be a pastor or that these words would even need to be explained. As a fifteen year old, the words seemed abundantly clear. As citizens of the United States of America we have the freedom to worship.  

The concept of freedom for a purpose has biblical roots. 

“Go back to Pharaoh,” the LORD commanded Moses. “Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me.’” Exodus 9.1 (NLT) 

The original intent of freedom for the Israelites in their release from slavery in Egypt was not political or even to ease human suffering. Freedom for the Israelites is not simply a metaphor for overcoming individual societal limitations. The purpose of freedom for the Hebrews was for worship of the one true God. 

We enjoy exceptional freedom as citizens of this great country. We are constitutionally free to pursue liberty and fulfill the desires of our hearts. We have the opportunity to be truly free.  

Freedom for our souls is not found in reckless abandon without any limitations. We were created with a deep longing for God. We are never fully free until our souls find the forgiveness of the cross of Christ and we are bound to the One who formed us.  

As we celebrate our political freedom, may we freely exercise our right to worship the living God and find liberty for our souls.