Christmas Eve is a time of anticipation. It's a time when we worship God through His Son, and await the retelling of the Christmas story in all its beauty and power.
Who could have thought that the King of all Creation would come as a lowly peasant child, born to poor parents in difficult and humiliating circumstances? How could Mary have known the year before she got pregnant (at 15?) that the following year she would undertake the most frightening journey of her life, to bear the Messiah? How could Joseph have known that his hopes and dreams for a family with Mary would be dashed to pieces, only to be resurrected by the words of an angel? How could the shepherds have known that tomorrow morning, very early, the host of heaven would appear to them and announce the birth of the Messiah? How could the Magi have known that their lives would change forever with the appearance of a certain Star?
I remember very well my first Christmas morning after becoming a Christian. I went to church for an early Christmas service at 5 AM, and everything seemed different. It was as if I had been transported into a world I had never known, populated by angels and God and the entire spiritual world, which I felt I could see with my mind's eye. It was as if a new consciousness, a new reality had opened up to me, and everything was the same, but different--as if I now understood that there was a parallel universe with all these beings in it that I had not known before. I remember getting out of the car, walking through the parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness, thinking how different everything was. It was the same, really. I was different. I had experienced contact with the living God, and He had accepted me. I knew there were angels, God, the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, all present in that moment, surrounding the parking lot, and it was as if I was one of the shepherds who heard those first words of announcement with the accompanying songs: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!"
It was completely real, yet not something I could ever communicate (see how feebly I do it even now!)--the world I had always wondered about, the universe God inhabits, was real, and I could sense it.
I don't want to get all mystical on you, but the fact is that this world is real to every Christian, and the corollary is that it is exceedingly hard to communicate this to people who are not Christians. Atheists haven't the tools to grasp these things, so they say that they're not real, because they can't experience them from their vantage point.
Other religions speak of some glorious state of transformation, when one comes into contact with the Divine, but that is an "achievement" that comes from many years of study and dedication. Here I was, 18 years old, a Christian for almost exactly one month, standing on an asphalt parking lot, looking at the pre-dawn sky, feeling the presence of God as truly as I can tell that this is a warm day in a San Diego winter. I didn't study and meditate my way to that experience, either. It was a gift. An indescribable, beautiful, real, powerful gift, which came to me the moment I decided to follow Jesus Christ and have Him in my life as my Savior.
I was later to find that other people just "didn't get it," and it was very frustrating. When you're young, you somehow think that your experiences are shared, that everyone who says, "I'm Christian" has an experience like yours. I found, of course, that many did. I also found that some people had intellectualized being Christian, as if you could "prove" that Christianity is true and right, and others had rejected the reality of Christianity for some reason I couldn't understand, and now everything was mechanical, and of course I found that people who were not Christians really didn't get it. It was as if they didn't have that sensory organ, the one that enables you to experience the spiritual world.
Thing is, I couldn't deny it. It was too real. As real as the first taste of ice cream. As real as a sunset. As real as a lover's arms around you. As real as the house I lived in with my Mom and Dad. REAL.
That's my problem when someone who doesn't believe starts talking about how Christianity can't be true, that it doesn't make sense. I try to explain it, and it's like trying to tell a blind man about a sunset. It's like trying to describe how it feels to hold your child in your arms to a robot.
Christianity cannot be proved to the satisfaction of atheists, of agnostics, of folk in other religions, but it CAN be experienced in such a way that you cannot go back. It's too real.
Come with me. You won't be like me, you'll have your own experiences, but you will never regret following Jesus Christ.
He is forever.
Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.
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