What my favorite Christmas song & Dreamworks “The Prince of Egypt” have to do with why our battle is so much bigger than “keeping Christ in Christmas”

Christmas is a season that holds a lot of emotions for many of us. Not so recently, it’s politically charged. Still  some how it’s all wrapped in this desire to finally feel childlike faith again. We watch ELF for the millionth time, It’s a Wonderful Life (actually… I’ve never seen it), a Charlie Brown Christmas, pick your cup of hot chocolate.  Honestly, I could stand to watch “The Prince of Egypt.” If you’re unfamiliar with the movie it’s the some what hollywoodified animated cartoon of the Biblical account of Moses and the Exodus. This doesn’t sound very much like Christmas at all. But on a tribute to the comment made last night about my favorite Christmas song “O Come Emmanuel” I just have to tie everything back to freeing the slaves. And in the beginning the slaves sing “Deliver us! Remember us!” Very similar to my favorite Christmas song:

“O come, o come Emmanuel,

Ransom captive Israel,

Who mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appears.”

The word Emmanuel is commonly translated as God be with us. I think it means “the God who is near.” In this song and the Bible there are parallels between the story of the Exodus and the story of Jesus.

So the first line cries out to the God who is near. Saying “where is the God who was once near to us?” “Where is the God who came close and was with us?”

For 400 years the Israelites were seemingly abandoned by God. The song is so perfectly written about the gap period, a period of silence from God. This gap is shown in that single page in your Bible between the last chapter the Old Testament book of Malachi and the first Gospel book of Matthew.  But this isn’t the first mention of nearly 400 years of silence. The first book of the Bible (Genesis) ends with the clan of Israel (whose name was Jacob) settled fruitfully in Egypt. Some years later we’re told that a new pharaoh came to reign and did not like the Israelites, they were forced into slavery and their labor was made difficult. The 12 tribes of the nation Israel were held captive in slavery for nearly 400 years. Until something happened. Until God spoke. And he spoke to one man–one man to change the course of history.

In Exodus 3:7 the Lord says to Moses: “I have indeed seen the misery o my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”

This becomes the first great rescue of God’s people. God rescues his people time and time again. And after another 400 years of silence God sends another rescuer–Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of God in the flesh, a God we can see, a God that we longed for coming and rescuing his people once again has become trivialized. Yet Christianity in America seems to fight this battle in a very simple, yet ineffective way.  We do it by refusing to say “Happy Holidays.” We do it by forcefully and stubbornly ignoring political correctness. But we’ve made a mistake. We seem to think this is a battle of the church fighting political correctness, that somehow political correctness is a threat to our way of life. Let me tell you something:

Someone saying Happy Holidays to you does not mean you are being persecuted… I have a lot to say on the persecuted church as a woman who has been to illegal churches in South China.

We have chosen the wrong battle to fight. And we’ve chosen to fight it in the wrong way.

People all over the world are asking “Where is the God who should be near?” And people are saying “If God is real, why isn’t he doing anything to stop this.”

But God has done something. God has left it up to us. In the ancient Bible priest came after priest, prophet after prophet… and our last account of this was Jesus Christ. God sent us his son. And then what happened? What was foreshadowed to us in the Exodus, in God freeing his people from slavery, was given as a commission. And the Commission was this: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely, I am with you always, even unto the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20, NIV).

What did Jesus command? What did he teach? He taught the disciples to love, he taught them to heal, he showed them to be humble, taught them to trust, told them to visit prisoners, to care for the orphans and the widows. He taught them to look after the vulnerable, no matter how tough their situations, no matter how sinful the circumstances. He even said that those who did this did it for God, as if Jesus himself was in prison, or hungry, or cold. When we fail to do this for others, we fail to have done it for Christ… and the Bible says those of us who stood to “His left,” those who followed an agenda that failed to reach out past themselves, past their church walls, into the broken, sometimes heartless world, would never see Heaven (Matthew 25).

When we miss out on reaching out, we miss out on Heaven. For the mean time I’m going to leave out opinions of what happens when we die… Heaven is even more real than that. When sin entered the world it took physical form. Sin isn’t just what we call the bad things we do, but it’s the bad things in the world. It takes the form of physical chains that hold people in bondage, it takes the form of disease, it takes the form of the physical earth deteriorating. There’s garbage. Garbage that we say. Garbage that we do. Literal physical garbage that people live in.

I took a trip down to visit my Compassion daughter in Bolivia this May with my Fiance, Stephen. Santa Cruz, Bolivia is not a city of riches, and the more we ventured out into the outskirts of the town, the more the roads became dirt, and the buildings became shacks. We entered the barrio, assembled on top of a landfill. In that landfill there were children living. But there was also a church living there. The church didn’t even come in and then leave every night. But the church is there in permanent form. That church, in partnership with Compassion International breaks poverty cycles. Every time a cycle is broken for a child, a little more Heaven is there.

The Gospel of Jesus is deep, it’s challenging. It’s more challenging than being called out for saying “Merry Christmas” when it’s not politically correct. Our battle is so much bigger than that. If you believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then you, with me are charged with doing something. We are called to care for orphans. We’re called to fight for real justice. We’re called to take care of the earth.

I recently watched this commercial for giving: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrgcrnraUnM. I’d say it’s controversial, I’m sure you have an opinion on it. But I think it has to do with the real battle that the modern day Western Church faces: we’re too comfortable. We’ve reduced giving to clicking a button. But that isn’t a sacrifice. Honestly, we’ve not given anything. We have reduced persecution to mild discomfort of not agreeing with people on politics. We are as much a culprit in missing the purpose of Christmas as anyone else. We’re in danger of missing out on Heaven.

God set an entire nation of people free over and over again. And he sets us free too. But he’s also called us, to help in the mission of setting people free. As a whole we need to stop arguing theology and start seeking God in practical ways. As a nation we need to stop copping out by calling clicking a button sacrificing. Our generations, Christian and non-Christian are searching for meaning in the comfortable lives that we live. We fight small battles, battles with little mission, battles with little purpose. We have ducked out of relationships for individualism. We’ve ducked out of commitment. We’ve ducked out of companionship. We are divided over trivial things. Our world is divided by color, by money, by citizenship, by language, by popularity. We miss out on Heaven.

You won’t see Heaven by clicking a button. You have to get out in the world and love people. You have to get out there and fight for something bigger than yourself. Don’t fight with words that fall on deaf ears. But I believe God is calling us as a nation, as a generation, as his Moseses.

I have no doubt, God has heard the cry of the people in bondage. He has looked to us and said “Go. Go to all nations, make disciples, break chains, teach them there’s a new way to live.”

Myself, I feel I’ve been caught in comfortable. And there’s a reason our lives feel unsettling. We have been called to something much greater and we sit in our little worlds and we don’t reach out to co-workers, we don’t stand up for orphans and widows, we have done nothing to welcome the hundreds and thousands of people who come from all over the world to our city looking for a new start. We get comfortable and we miss out on Heaven, sitting in church, saying “merry Christmas.” We hide behind Nativity Scenes, we band together behind politics and TV shows, and an agenda. But God’s agenda was much more straight forward, “Give it all up,  come follow me.”

To you in bondage of comfortable, or meaninglessness, addiction, whatever, follow God out. There’s a way out. He has made for you an escape from your slavery.

For those of you who are free, in any sense of the word. Be like Moses, be like Harriet Tubman. They fled the darkness of slavery. Harriet was a slave herself, with physical chains and physical beatings. Moses saw the darkness of what people like her faced, he made his move against the status quo… Killed a slave master and fled his fate. But God called them both back. Not to slavery but to the slaves.

We don’t have to be the heroes of the world. God is the hero. But we have been given the power and the authority to change the status quo, to fight for justice, to love the broken and the needy no matter the circumstance. If God has saved you, then go into the world and connect with people. As the prophet Isaiah, who wrote of the coming of Christ, said:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).

Proclaim freedom.

God came down in the flesh. We celebrate Christmas because He got down on our level. He made himself human, approachable, even homeless. Meet people right where they are. Speak their language. Love them where they are. Let yourself be approachably human. Open yourself to a celebration that includes outcasts, enemies, the broken, the needy, the labeled. So when you give, give of yourself. Proclaim Christmas by meeting people where they are. Proclaim the Gospel and stop playing games that divide us. Start uniting yourself with friendships, the kind that cross boundaries of lonliness, of darkness, of war. Giving money will never amount to real world change. To change the world we have to change the way we think and the way we act, and then the kingdom of Heaven will be near. Jesus said in Mark 1:15 “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is near. Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News.” And then he started calling people from their ordinary lives to live in extraordinary ways.

And the world is singing “My deliverer is coming, my deliverer is standing by.”

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