A number of years ago (I won’t say how many!), John and I went to the community nursing home during the Christmas season to lead some singing and bring them a word about God’s love for them. We sang some familiar Christmas songs with the less familiar accompaniment of my guitar. Then John read one of the New Testament passages about the birth of Jesus to be followed by a short devotional thought. After the singing and the Bible reading, one of the elderly men got up and shuffled out with the aid of his walker. As he left, we heard him say out loud to no one in particular, “I’m leaving; I’ve heard this all before.”
There is some truth, minus the cynicism, to what the old gentleman said. What we say and do at Christmas has been said and celebrated before. We often use the same decorations, sometimes passing them to the next generation. We sing many of the same songs. After all, what is Christmas without _____? (Pick your favorite song.) When we think about it, this God-with-us event isn’t even a new idea. It was in God’s heart long before it actually happened. And the Lord made sure we knew it was going to happen. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph though the action of God’s Spirit, the Lord made it clear He was at work doing something new. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared,
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, many people were looking and longing for the event. Some of the people were like Anna and Simeon, already faithful people of the Lord’s community (Luke 2:25-30). Some were outside of community of faith, but were looking for this special event in order to be a part of it (Matt. 2: 1-2). The old message of God’s things to come repeated down through the years was a really a new thing. Though expected, it came in an unexpected way.
About the time I think I’ve heard it or seen it all, something happens. A new song. Someone who has just begun to experience that Christmas is more than an excuse for consumerism, that the real God of the universe has taken an intimate and eternal interest in every single person on the face of the planet in every time and every place. A warmth in a familiar event. A reconnection with an old friend.
In the same way, the Lord is taking this same Christmas message of God’s love in Christ for people and doing a new thing today. I am convinced that the Lord is doing a new thing among people in the northwest. More than that, God has a vital part for our people in Mission Northwest to play in God’s new thing.
So what may seem like “the same ol’ thing” also has the features of a new thing. One of the best parts of Christmas for me is this: in the middle of events that may look like and sound like what we did last year, and probably many years before that, God continues to break in. Then as now, God keeps on say to us, “I’m doing a new thing. Don’t you recognize it?”
This Christmas season, may you recognize the eternal newness of God in the midst of all that is dear and familiar to you. My prayer for you is that you will recognize the part Christ has for you in bringing His new life to those He has put in your life for exactly that reason.