When an Ordinary Christmas Becomes Extraordinary

At times I am tempted to give up on Christmas. I need to qualify what I mean by that statement. Christmas as a cultural experience in terms of shopping for my wife and two daughters is real tough on me.

In years past, I spent time and money shopping for these important ladies, only to wonder where the sweaters and other pieces of clothing went. I know that they took most of these back and exchanged them for other items. Therefore, I have just decided to give gift certificates.

I know that is a real cop-out. But guess what? I actually feel better about this approach than the one earlier taken. Now they can take back what they purchase.
Christmas can become an ordinary experience, like all of life. We can easily forget the wonder and mystery of this most important of occasions. This does not have to be the case, however.

Simeon is a minor Biblical character in the story of the birth of Jesus. He was most likely an older man, described as righteous and devout and led by the Holy Spirit. He was given a promise from God that his life would not end until he saw the Messiah.

Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple for the customary time of blessing. When Simeon saw Him, he offered a memorable blessing and declaration concerning the coming of Christ.
Simeon described Jesus as being the “light to the Gentiles.” This was in a Jewish temple where a worship service was being experienced, and he was saying light has come to Gentiles. The Gentiles, the Romans who occupied Israel, were enemies of the people of Israel.

Simeon further declared that “glory has come to Israel.” A baby will bring glory to Israel? What Israel needed was a king or military leader to overthrow the Roman captors. At least that is what they thought.

An ordinary day at the temple was transformed into something extraordinary by the coming of Jesus. That is what makes being a Christian so unique, so special. At Christmas, the drama of the Word becoming flesh began, and life became real.

Your Christmas can become extraordinary too. The ordinariness of life can be transformed into extraordinary ways which are unimaginable. How can this happen for you?

I. You experience an extraordinary Christmas when you realize that God still speaks to people.

Our God has not gone silent. He still speaks to us, and Christmas is one way He speaks in a loud and clear fashion. In the story of the birth of Jesus, our God reminds us that He is the best communicator we will ever know. He spoke the world into existence, and He spoke again and the Word became flesh.

When you listen closely, you can hear the still small voice of our God speaking elegantly and eloquently through the story of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. Do we have ears to hear? Are we letting the sounds of the commercialized Christmas deafen us to the communication of the real Christmas message?

A friend of mine was considering a transition in ministry, and he was having difficulty getting a clear word from the Lord. His first name is Timothy, and he felt compelled to read Paul’s epistles to Timothy, his namesake.

When he read Paul’s declaration in II Timothy 4:6-8, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course…”, he said to himself “I have not finished my course. I have more to do right here, and it is here I need to be.”

God spoke to my friend through His Word. My friend found peace in his place of service. For him, it was an extraordinary moment. For him God spoke clearly and reassuringly concerning his present and future ministry.

II. You experience an extraordinary Christmas when you realize God still saves people.

His very name “Jesus” means “Savior.” The book of Acts shouts out the affirmation “that there is no other name under heaven whereby people can be saved.”

If we think the saving power of Jesus is past tense, then life becomes ordinary but when we hold to the truth that Jesus still saves, then life is transformed into something eternally extraordinary.
Years ago, a person of another religious background asked me, “Do you Baptists still preach about being born again?”. The answer is a resounding yes. It is the heart and soul of the Gospel.

The question of needing to be saved is not theoretical or philosophical but personal. You need Christ. You need to answer the question, “What shall I do with Jesus?”. No one can make that decision for you. It is yours to make for yourself. Jesus can transform your life from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

On Friday nights at my home, we try to have what we call “Friday night at the movies.” Granted, finding something worth watching is a big challenge, but every now and then we hit on a good one. Recently, we viewed a Christmas movie called “All I Want for Christmas.”

This Hallmark movie was clean in terms of family values but absent a Christ-centered message. The story centered on an attractive 38-year-old widow and her 10-year-old son. Their neighbor was a single man, who was a surrogate father for the boy.

The plot was so predictable, I felt I could have written the story. It was an hour and a half long but could have been presented in 30 or 40 minutes. The best line in the movie was at the end when the boy’s mother and the neighbor were engaged to be married. The young fellow asked “How do you feel?”. They both answered in unison, “Complete.”

The inference, of course, is that without each other they were incomplete. In reality, if you are without Christ, you are incomplete. In Christ, you become complete. Through Christ, you know the abundant life.

III. You experience an extraordinary Christmas when you realize God still stays with His people.

Immanuel is another name for Jesus, which means, “God is with us.” He is always with us. He never leaves us. He never puts a sign in the front of the door, which reads, “out to lunch” or “closed.”

When you are in the hospital waiting room, awaiting word on the health of a loved one, He is with you. He is right there in the waiting room beside you. When you are in the operating room about to face surgery, He is with you.

When your children disappoint you, He is with you. When your friends betray you, He is with you. When your job or business is in jeopardy, He is with you. When you face the worst and the best moments of your life, He is with you.

God stays with us. What a promise! What a God! What an extraordinary way to live! To know that the God who created all things and all people is with us at every moment of our lives makes the Christian life a special and extraordinary way to live!

The old song shouts out the message, ” No, never alone.” There is never a time when we are alone, without Christ. He is always with us. That is the promise of the Christ of Christmas: We are never alone. He stays with us.

Sometime ago, I called a friend, who is facing a very serious brain cancer situation. He is undergoing all kinds of tedious procedures and he is being subjected to extensive therapy. There are many low and sad days for him. When I called, my friend was unable to speak to me on the phone. It was not a clear or lucid day for him. His wife did the talking. Her comments were hopeful but cautious. She indicated that now her husband can only speak one full sentence, only one but what a sentence!

He keeps repeating, “We are just going to wait and see what God does.” That must have been the life motto of Simeon, who had waited for what seemed to be endless years for the coming of Christ. Then when he saw the Christ-Child everything changed. God had done an extraordinary something which changed the world.

Are you waiting by faith to see what God is going to do, or are you like the teeming masses of people who get caught on the treadmill of life, especially during the Christmas season. Get off the treadmill of purposeless activity, and turn to the One who can transform you.

Our God is going to do something extraordinary this Christmas season and all throughout our lives. How do I know? I know because He can still speak to us. He can still save us. He can still stay with us. Now that is extraordinary!

Jesus can change your world too. He wants to do something extraordinary in your life. Are you waiting to see what He is going to do? Like Simeon, the Lord will not disappoint you. He will keep His promises, they are eternal.

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention’s 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, [email protected]

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