Summary: God’s answer to growing our hearts three sizes larger is to live for Christ and one way we do this is to give generously, hilariously to others
Wheaton College, outside of Chicago, is home to The Billy Graham Center. It houses an auditorium, classrooms, and a museum containing priceless artifacts. A fire burned part of the room in 2004 sending thick black smoke visible four miles away.
When the alarm sounded some immediately evacuated while others remained inside until firefighters appeared to escort them out. Joylin was one of the fearful ones uncertain about what to do. She recounts, "One of the women said, ’Why don’t we stay back and pray?’ The rest of us were like, ’I think we need to get out.’" 1
There are some times when it is obvious what needs to be done. There are situations in which the answer is absolutely, 100%, clear-cut. Yet, have we not known those who refused to leave an abusive spouse? Have we not known those knowingly ran headlong down a self-destructive path toward death? Why do such people just leave, stop, quit, or wake-up?
In this year’s Singing Christmas Tree we are singing new lyrics to "Ode to Joy". I has something to do with copyrights, but as hard as it is to learn such things the words are significant.
Joyful, joyful, rings the anthem; Christmas is the birth of Grace. Christ has come to pay the ransom for the sin of Adam’s race, unto us our God has spoken, through the ancient prophet’s pen. To a world that’s lost and broken, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
John records Jesus’ discussion with a member of the Jewish leadership. Their entire existence revolved around serving God in an attempt to foster good will between the Almighty Creator of the Universe and themselves. Daily offerings were made for their sins while seasonal offerings given for thanksgiving, childbirth and the like. Yet in this dark night Jesus tells Nicodemus God’s love is so great that he sent his son and that faith, belief, reliance on the one God sent [past tense] is the key to eternal life. Yet Jesus doesn’t make "belief" = "praying a simple prayer". Jesus contrasts those, "who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" with those who, "comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." Believing in Jesus is a constant stepping away from the darkness that conceals and hides and God’s light that allows others to see God’s hand at work through us.
We don’t earn this grace God has given. The very best in our lives is described by Isaiah as "filthy rags" or a "polluted garment"2 God’s word tells us we’ve missed the mark, consistently. And yet the glorious generosity of God is reported in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." NAS
God’s grace is poured out on us when we don’t deserve it but we believe we can simply receive it and not do anything with it then we’re mistaken. God’s graciousness and our reception and our acceptance have the very force of moving us into the light. That is, letting God’s work become visible through us.
The Grinch, like Nicodemus, is locked in a dark place. He stands on Mount Crumpit looks down at Whoville and hates it. He hates the noise. He despises their feasts. He carps about their joy and he complains about the singing. He’s not a misunderstood victim like in the live action movie. He is, like us, a sinner. He’s just a nasty guy whose shoes are too tight and his heart is too small. He has no idea, at all, of the spiritual danger he is in, as he remains ensconced on his mountain of isolation and despair.
When we do what God does we move more-and-more into the light. And among that is a growing genuine care and concern for sisters and brothers in Christ; a desire to love those who hate us and stepping out in trust that God’s will is being accomplished as we do what he commands. In 1 John we’re told we are to love each other. And this love is set over against the murder of Able by Cain. As we enter the light we will discover how important it is for us to "lay our lives" down for others. There’s a couple of interesting phrases in this passage. Verse 13 says, " Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you." but don’t read the "if" as a maybe. It is used in the sense of "since the world hates you". Our world really doesn’t love those who help or love others. It is so wrapped up in remaining in the dark. Our culture may celebrate some heroic or selfless action but in truth it is not unusual to find someone going after the dirt on such people.