Christmas Freedom

I admit it might seem a bit odd to be writing about freedom this Christmas.

 

In many ways, we have less freedom this Christmas than many of us have ever had in our lifetimes.  Freedom to gather for worship, to eat in restaurants, even to come together as family are all under some form of restriction in some way or another. 

 

Some of us are even under quarantine.

 

It’s been a rough year.

 

Countless memes have likened 2020 from everything from a line of burning porta-potties to a dumpster fire to an ice cream truck dispensing liver and onions. 

 

This morning, as I was re-reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning one more time, I came across this quote by theologian Robert Hotchkins:

 

“Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable orgies of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.”

 

“…liberated from the fear of life…”

 

I don’t know about you, but I have known many a Christian in my lifetime that seemed to be living in fear of life –or at least the fear of messing up some “church thing” that would result in someone somehow not being good enough for God.

 

Whether it was how the bread was sliced at the potluck or the particulars of cake placement on paper plates at a funeral, we can be awfully picky and even legalistic when it comes down to what’s “right.” 

 

It seems we have this natural tendency to want to make up more rules than God Himself would have us obey. 

 

Paul himself absolutely tore into the Galatians about that tendency:

 

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Galatians 3:1-3 (NLT)

 

I can literally see Paul, who spent quite a bit of time imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, stamping his foot and pounding the desk as he wrote this. At least one translation uses the word “stupid” in that first sentence. 

 

Verse after verse in the Bible tells us Jesus came to set us free. 

 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)

 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 (NIV)

 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

 

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 (ESV)

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

 

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5 (ESV)

 

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 (ESV)

 

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 (ESV)

 

That’s what that little baby in the manger came to do. 

 

On that night when the heavens opened up and God became flesh, He did it to set us free.

 

He did it that we would no longer have to strive and struggle and nit-pick about a law we could not keep. No matter how bad we were, whether we were tax collectors or shepherds or fishermen —or worse– this little baby had come to fulfill all that law for us when there was zero chance we could do it ourselves.

 

God Himself put on flesh. The King had come to a humble little corner of a humble little town called Bethlehem and He would change the world forever. He would do what none of us could do.

 

He would keep the law perfectly.

 

He would be not just “good enough.” He would be perfect.

 

And, in His perfection, He would make us good enough for God. 

 

He would set us free, not by any merit of our own, but by His love for us.

 

And all we would have to do is believe in Him.

 

Faith. All it takes is faith.

 

That’s one reason there is so much joy in Christmas. The manger, the star, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph in that stable…it’s such a beautiful story… we all find it easy to believe in that. We all sing “Silent Night” like we really mean it and believe it.

 

It’s when the cares and troubles of this world creep up on us that we forget about that. We lose sight of the beauty of that Silent Night. We forget about the simple freedom of believing in that child in the manger.

 

The masks and the restrictions and all the rules seem so different than what we were designed for. 

 

Our hearts yearn for freedom. We yearn to live in that world where we all believe we were born to be free. 

 

And, as I was pondering what I would write in this blog about freedom in Christ, just this few days before Christmas, another verse struck me:

 

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 (NLT)

 

Jesus sent the disciples out in freedom. All the world lay before them. All the peoples and tribes and tongues of the world, all the regions yet unexplored, so much yet unknown to them but known to God, not just in physical space but in time. 

 

So, here we are, some two thousand years later. The Great Commission still stands. There are peoples and places yet to be reached. There are people who have not yet heard of that little baby born in a stable who came to set us free.

 

Yes, there are still restrictions on our travel. There are road blocks and detours and speed bumps to our freedom to speak the Gospel. But the Gospel still goes out via Kinship Christian Radio and a thousand other radio stations all over the world. It still goes out over the internet. It still goes out when you share the love of Jesus with your neighbor. If the world could not stop the Gospel by putting the Apostle Paul in prison, can it stop you?

 

That little baby from the stable would one day be crucified on a cross. They would put Him in a tomb and seal it with a stone. 

 

And death itself would not stop Him.

 

Freedom would triumph as the ultimate freedom –the freedom from death itself.

 

So yes, we ought to be preoccupied with joy. People ought to be joining churches in droves to get in on the joy and fun. 

 

And when all this is over, when this disease is a distant memory and we are all free to travel wherever we want, let us never forget what a joy it is to be free to share that Good News all over this world –even if it’s with our next-door neighbor.

 

AMEN and HALLELUJAH!

 

Todays Praise

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4: 18&19 (NIV)

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