Yes and No and You and Me!

We are going through the “no” stage with our soon-to-be 2 year-old granddaughter, Jensen.  Some call it the “Terrible Twos,” but I have never liked that designation.  What I have learned about this developmental stage for Jensen is she is “just trying to express her growing independence and does not have the language skills to easily express her needs.” 

No matter how long that stage lasts, it is still too long.  Hot on its heels is another developmental stage — the “me want” stage.  Unfortunately, this fixation lasts longer than the “no” stage—like from age 2 until about 106. “Me want” is the cornerstone of our consumer culture and it is in full bloom during this season of the year.

Our culture has done an emphatically good job at leaving the “no” stage far behind.  Technological advances have helped us come to the point where we do not have to say “no.”  We do not have to accept boundaries and limitations, or to pick and choose.  We do not want to “give up” anything or “lose” one thing.  “We want” it all, and we have come up with ingenious ways to make that dream a reality.

All this “no” and “yes” business (another way to say “me want” is “I just can’t say no to myself!”) got me to thinking about the power of each of these one word declarations. For instance, …
•    How can we say “No” to the powers and principalities of this world?
•    By saying “Yes” to the ultimate power and authority, God.
In fact, the necessary “no” cannot be invoked without the affirming “yes.”

Jesus said “no” to the Devil because he had already said “yes” to the Father. Jesus said “no” to the seductive words of the tempter because he said “yes” to the authority of Scripture.

  You say to your child, no, you cannot play in the street.  That necessary no is only possible because you, as a loving parent, have already said yes to your commitment to safeguard the health of your child.

You say no to drugs because you have said yes to clean living.

You say no to revenge because you have said yes to forgiveness.

You say no to temptation because you have said yes to self-control.

You say no to Satan because you have said yes to the Spirit.

You say no to racism because you have said yes to love.

You say no to oppression because you have said yes to justice.

You say no to crankiness because you have said yes to kindness.

When you say “yes” to God, that “yes” means you are also saying “no” to something else. Think and pray about this as you look at your commitment card this morning.  Commitment at its best means we are going to find ways to say yes to God with our time, talent and financial resources. 

So, how about a good old “yeah God!”

A Wonderful Time for Wondering

I wonder how much Jesus could see and know about the events surrounding His birth.  He was always ahead of His time.  In the second chapter of Luke, we find Mary and Joseph looking for Him, only to discover that He was in the temple at Jerusalem interacting with the teachers who “were amazed at His understanding and His answers (verse 47).”
I wonder if He understood the reason for the lack of privacy.  The guest room was apparently occupied, so Mary and Joseph had withdrawn to a stable at the back of or underneath the house, perhaps in a cave.  A feeding trough even served as a crib.  How simple and bare it must have all seemed.
I wonder if He realized that Luke’s later story of His birth would speak of this starkness.  Luke, recognizing the need for Christ to identify with the poor, lowly and marginal of the world, gave us a poignant perspective of those early hours.
I wonder if He heard the angel and the heavenly host announcing His arrival.  Mary and Joseph did not.  These two, busy with the chores of childbirth under the most difficult of circumstances, do not themselves experience heaven’s visit, but hear of it from, of all people, the shepherds. 
I wonder if He heard the angel announce His threefold title of “Savior, Christ, and Lord.”  Interestingly, Luke is the only gospel writer who offers the word “Savior” in his birth setting.  Maybe Luke the physician, more than all the others who would later follow Jesus, recognized what “saving” a life really meant.
I wonder if He heard the heavenly host singing of peace and salvation.  And could he imagine that this peace would be granted not only to persons, but also societies through a restoration of balance in all the forces of creation, which influence our lives.
And I wonder about those shepherds.  I wonder if Jesus thought about why the shepherds played such a crucial part in those preliminary plans.  Did He know that it was all part of God’s plan to tie Jesus to the shepherd king, David (II Samuel 7:8)?  Did He recognize that much like the poor, maimed, and blind, the shepherds belonged on Luke’s guest list for the kingdom?
I wonder if Jesus was aware of the fact that even though the stable was bare, the glory of God was everywhere.  For most of us, the problem of celebrating Christmas is not one of simplicity and barrenness, but rather complication and busyness. 

Yes, the glory of God is everywhere.  It just takes us a while to see it.  So, what I really wonder is, will we see it this year?