“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes in placed in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds...”
Are you still with me? Or were you already beginning to tune out? Chances are if you are anything like me, you read the first line and already recognized the familiar words of the Nativity story so you just skimmed to the end of the paragraph. Why read it again when you’ve already heard it a hundred times before?
You see for most of us the sheer familiarity of the story of Jesus birth often has the effect of dampening or even destroying our feelings of awe or wonder at the truth that GOD became a man. As the Gospel of John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Let me ask you, does that truth change anything for you? Does it do something inside of you each time you hear it?
Perhaps as a child there was a time you were struck with the wonder and awe that God would send His Son into this world as a helpless baby... to come as a lowly servant... to die in the place of sinners... to bring us into a right relationship with the Father. But as each Christmas comes and goes the narrative can become so familiar, that our wonder turns into indifference – our awe into boredom – and as a result all of our Christmas carols, pageants and candlelight services become nothing more than mechanical rituals that we repeat every December. And so maybe for you Christmas 2013 feels like just another ho-hum Christmas.
Maybe what we all need is a change in perspective – to somehow see Christmas in a fresh way.
Apollo astronaut James Irwin got to experience the ultimate change in perspective as the eighth man to walk on the moon and the first to ride the famous Lunar Module. In his book More Than Earthlings, he recounts much of his out-of-this-world exploits and how it changed him.
“I was just amazed to see the earth,” he said. “It reminded me of a Christmas tree ornament – a very fragile one, hanging majestically in space. It was very touching to see earth from that perspective.” At one point, Irwin had trouble with a planned experiment. “He was erecting an experiment that wouldn’t erect, due to a cotter pin or something of that nature,” his wife Mary recalls. Frustrated in his attempts to get the experiment to work, Irwin decided he would pray.
While raised in a Christian home – and a believer and churchgoer since age 10, it had changed his life very little. He described himself as a ‘bump on a log Christian.’
But there on the moon he really needed wisdom due to this problem and so he said, “God I need your help right now.” Suddenly Irwin experienced the presence of Jesus Christ in a remarkable way, unlike anything he had ever felt on earth. “The Lord showed him the solution to the problem and the experiment erected before him like a little altar,” Mary says. “He was so overwhelmed at seeing and feeling God’s presence so close,” she says. “At one point he turned around and looked over his shoulder as if He was standing there.”
This unusual encounter with Jesus – some 238,000 miles from earth, changed Irwin’s life forever. Within a year of Irwin’s return from space, he resigned from NASA and formed the High Flight Foundation, with the mission of reaching the world as “goodwill ambassadors for the Prince of Peace.” Irwin said, “God decided that He would send His Son Jesus Christ to the blue planet and it’s through faith in Jesus Christ that we can relate to God. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” And whenever people asked Irwin to talk about the Apollo missions he was always quick to say: “There’s something more important than man walking on the moon, and that is God walking on the earth.”
Unlike James Irwin we can’t just jump on a spaceship to experience the reality of God becoming a man from a lunar perspective, but Jesus is as near to us today as the whisper of the heartfelt prayer that Irwin spoke on the moon: “God I need your help right now.” So whatever stage of life you are in, whether you believe or aren’t quite sure what you believe, whether you are a completely devoted follower or a ‘bump on a log’ Christian, Jesus desires to be so real to you that you might just look over your shoulder to see if He’s standing there. It is only the reality of Jesus presence that can truly change a life so that our perspective will never again be the same.
My prayer for you is that Christmas 2013 won’t be just another ho-hum Christmas but a time where you experience Jesus in a fresh and personal way.
May God bless you and yours richly this Christmas,
~Pastor Danny Groening
Killarney Mennonite Church
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