It started with a lone child in a manger, but ended up with a household on a trajectory to glory.
I’ve adapted this post from a message given by Thad Townsend,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly
I’m from Arkansas, but I’ve been here in Columbus for about fifteen years. One thing I noticed back when I first arrived as a student at Ohio State: people who went home to visit their families were typically traveling within an hour or two. That made the holidays an awkward time for me, because I couldn’t always manage the long trek south. I remember that eerie feeling in my dorm room when everyone else was gone, and I found myself wanting Christmas or Thanksgiving to hurry up and mercifully end.
A lot of people are in that situation today. This includes folks who come from broken homes. “Family time” for them consists of visits from one family fragment to another, because there are no scenarios where all of them could be together in the same room.
Over the years, typical local Christians became like family to me. Nor was all of it spent in an official religious atmosphere. Some of my most memorable experiences were downright silly. For instance, there was the time we were sitting around after a Thanksgiving dinner, feeling fat and happy. During a board game, and lots of laughs, I got the deep impression that one of our group leaders, Jeff, was genuinely comfortable with us, and we with one another. It was a sensation of family—not the awkwardness of guys trying to force something, or people just hanging out.
There’s a world full of people who don’t have this. Their loneliness leads them to look for unhealthy substitutes, like gangs and cults. The gathered church should demonstrate an alternative by presenting the reality of family, not only for the benefit of those in it, but to the rest of the world who have yet to enter it.
Eph. 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
These are the results of the Gospel, an incredibly important point to remember during the Christmas season. You see, when we talk about Jesus coming into this world as a baby, this isn’t meant to trigger mere seasonal sentiments. Earlier in the chapter, the Bible says we were by nature children of wrath. We lived to gratify the selfish desires of our minds and bodies.
When God sent Jesus into the world, we had no reason to expect anything but judgement. As enemies of God we were only entitled to a display of wrathful power. Instead, Christ came into the world as a baby into a little family. His eventual work on the cross eliminated our estrangement from God. Which then eliminates our alienation from one another.
Consider the many incredible athletes who have landed high profile endorsements, and attracted fans by the tens of thousands. They have money, women, and mansions. But being estranged from God, an awful emptiness haunts them, like former sports great Deion Sanders, who, after winning a Super Bowl, confessed he had never felt emptier. Nothing in the world can fill that kind of void, though Sanders tried to do it with everything from money to fame. In the process, he lost his family. Our estrangement from God always alienates us from others. We will never feel truly at home apart from the reconciling blood of Christ, because it is precisely this reconciliation that brings us together as fellow citizens and members.
The cross makes possible a certain level of intimacy in the household of God that we should all have with one another after we’re saved. For example, there are certain things you only feel comfortable sharing with your family. Why? Because there’s an environment of trust in a household that makes you feel you can confide in those people. My brother and I have stories we’ve never told, even to this day. I’m obviously not trying to say we cover up each other’s sins, only that we can open up to the members of our household and even count on them to fight for us.
The same spiritual dynamic exists in the household of God.
Paul tells us that having become members of the household of God, we are,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Our being together issues in a together growth, which is why we see the terms whole structure, and built together. Furthermore, we’re growing into something splendid—a holy temple. This isn’t just some sort of nonprofit, or volunteer organization.
Even when we gather in small groups, or a few of us over lunch, we’re drawing on the strength of one another’s Bible reading, devotional time, or life lessons taught by the Lord. What one receives is for the sake of all. Glory of this type can’t be found in a wonderful Christmas program, or certain other church externals, but only in the other members of the household.
In his book, The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis put it this way:
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
“This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
In this setting of reconciled family, I’m right next to folks who are becoming something glorious, and I get to be a part of it. Absence from them for any length of time feels as if a “train” has moved forward, and I need to get caught up, that I’ve missed something.
This might lend fuller meaning to the song “Go tell it on the Mountain.” While we celebrate the most excellent birth of all time, we also participate in the fruit of His later sweat and blood—a house together, sometimes uneventful, but at another level, always brilliant.
Don’t forget to tell that part on the mountain, too.