I dont know about you, but e-mail is a regular part of my day. Whether communicating with church members, friends across the country or missionaries around the world, I depend upon this form of communication. Almost weekly I receive what I call general messages from various persons. The e-mails origin is usually unknown, but it gets forwarded several times until someone I know sees it, likes it and then decides to send it on to me.
From time to time I receive some that catch my attention and even my heart. Tis the season and twas the case a few days ago when I received the following Christmas e-mail: You are invited to a party! Guest of Honor: Jesus Christ, Date: Dec. 25, Time: Any time you can come. Location: In you heart (youll hear him knocking).
In Lukes gospel, Chapter 2, we find God communicating to some obscure, lowly shepherds in the middle of the night. An angel of the Lord brings them a message more meaningful than a Christmas card and more powerful than an e-mail! In verse 10, the angel says, Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
How does that verse strike you? Seriously, do we truly understand the vast power and truth of the inclusiveness in that promise of God? Not only do we have a hard time understanding it, we have even a harder time accepting it.
There are so many parts to the Christmas story and so many deserving messages, but next to the mysterious and majestic miracle of God becoming flesh the next greatest fact and the most dynamic message about Christmas is that it is for everyone. Anyone can come to the party. No matter who you are, no matter what youve done, you are welcome to be a part of this celebration, both now and forever.
Think about it. After Mary and Joseph, the first ones to hear the good news of great joy were poor, uneducated, non-sophisticated, overlooked sheep herders (who lived on-site with their clientele, mind you). When I think of the shepherds, I think of men who were perhaps aimless and without purpose; lonely and without relationships; isolated and disconnected from the mainstream. They werent just at the bottom of the totem pole; Im not sure they were even on it to begin with. These misfits were nobody in the eyes of popular society.
But God is inclusive! He paid attention to these shepherds. He showed up in their lives, invited them to the party and gave them a front-row seat at the greatest performance on the grandest stage of all time. In his eyes, God made them feel like somebody - somebody of value; somebody he loved; somebody who was worth being born for and even somebody to die for.
I have good news of great joy for you today. God loves you and he cares for you. His amazing grace allows you to join the party. And if you were the only sinful person who had been living on the night he became a human baby, he would have been bornjust for you.
I think thats why Isaac Watts penned the greatest Christmas hymn to ever have been sung: Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature and sing.
From the fields of Bethlehem to the streets of Columbia County, the timeless and joyful message is the same - there is hope for us all, the Lord has come, he invites you to join him and be a part of the Christmas story (every day)its a party!
(Rev. Philip Vestal is pastor of Harlem Baptist Church.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.