Baby Jesus, Freely Given to Us

Baby Jesus is more than baby Jesus.

Before our creation, the God of all things planned His steps carefully to be a blessing to every person. His desire was to make a race (humanity) who would dwell forever in peace and happiness with Him. Such a race must be driven by a genuine concern for others. It had to be driven by love. This love would be expressed to Him and to every other member of humanity.

But love is not love if it is forced upon us or required from us. Love cannot be demanded. It cannot be legislated. It cannot even be expected. The choice must be made from a truly free will. God built that freedom within each of our hearts.

Because He is God, He knows everything. He knew in advance that each of us would struggle with our freedom. Some of us would become overbearing with a desire to claim the will of others. They would force the will of one or many to be directed to themselves for their own pleasure or power.

Some of us would be tempted to direct our will and our commitment to a power other than God. This group wants instant gratification. To accomplish it, they may submit to the overbearing strength of another.

God knew we need an example to show us what love really is. We need to know how to really direct our will to what is right. So God exhibited His free will for our eternal good. He sent Baby Jesus.

Every year we are reminded of the innocence and the fragility of our will freely directed to others in love. We see the Baby in a manger. We, too, will share our love humbly and allow those around us to receive the gift in their own way.

Jesus didn’t force the shepherds to trudge through the darkness to the isolated stable. They were drawn to Him by the promise of the angel choir. In the Baby, they would find peace and goodwill for themselves and for all mankind.

He didn’t force the wise men from the East to travel long distances by night along treacherous trade routes to bring Him expensive gifts. They came to His side to find enlightenment and to worship the Holy King.

You and I are also drawn to the Baby. We are surrounded by the expectations of others, forcing their will on us and trying to force our wills into submission to them. But they have no power over the will totally surrendered to the Baby.

We seek peace. We are drawn to humility. We long to find holiness. We are drawn to God. This year, like every other year, we are drawn to Baby Jesus. We are drawn to Love freely given to us. As we look into the manger, we will respond in our own way.

I pray your way will be to receive the love so freely given to you. Then freely and humbly share it with others.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Merry Christmas to all.

United States of America: Worth Celebrating

In the lifetime of every person and every nation, some days rise to the point of needing to be remembered and celebrated. These are days that can be pointed to as crucial to the existence, quality, and continuity of that lifetime.

I have some extraordinary dates. I look to the day Deena and I were married in 1976. It was a watershed day, worthy of being remembered. I can only thank God for leading in the lives of both of us for this special occasion. I also remember the birthdates of our children. Those are days that changed the world for me.

While it is not always the case, none of these special days came without warning or preparation for me. Each one of them was anticipated with eagerness. It is also true that each one was followed by tremendous joy, but also some degree of uncertainty and sadness. No life is exempt from trials and difficulties.

Birthed through sacrifice and trials, the certainty of freedom for our great nation wasn’t guaranteed. The day of July 4, 1776 was a seminal moment. It was personal for those who took a stand.  I believe in the United States of America. Each July 4th, we celebrate the official decision to become a new nation. That date in history changed the world from then until now, and into our foreseeable future.

I don’t want to think about what the world would be like now if the United States had not been established. If we not grown into the nation we became. Of course, we have made mistakes. From our leaders down to each citizen and guest, we have all made mistakes in our interpersonal relationships. As a country, mistakes have been made in our associations with other nations and peoples.

I have lived and worked in eight countries outside of the United States. There are many others I have visited for shorter periods. I talked with the peoples of these nations and learned that many individuals worldwide look up to our country and its citizens. They love and aspire to the freedom we have built not only for ourselves but for many of them. From the individual citizen to the admired and feared military, to the business people and political leaders, there is no other country that has blessed the freedom of as many other peoples than has the United States.

Happy Birthday, America! May God continue to bless you and to use you for good throughout the world.