By: Ginger Hughes
Organ music fills the sanctuary as voices join together singing, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Prayers are prayed, and scripture is read. Those familiar verses from Luke detail the most sacred of stories—Jesus’ birth. The lights are dimmed, and the candles lit, each shining like a bit of hope, each a silent prayer for peace.
Christmas Eve night, alive with expectation and excitement, is finally here.
The first glimmer of dawn breaks through the velvety darkness. Children, eyes filled with wonder, rush down the stairs in hopes that stockings have been filled and gifts are under the tree. Laughter floats in the air and joy permeates our souls. Families gather around tables, plates and hearts full. Blessings are offered, thanking God not only for our food but also for the birth of Jesus.
Christmas day, alive with peace and joy, is finally here.
Most of us know the story of Jesus’ birth. We know the story of young Mary responding to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would give birth to a child saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be according to your word.” We know the story of Joseph, who chooses to stay the course and love Mary despite this seemingly unbelievable circumstance in which he finds himself. And we know the story of Jesus’ birth there in the stable, amid animals and hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.
But do we live life differently in light of Jesus’ birth?
The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus’ life. There are miraculous stories of love and healing when He came alongside the lepers, touching them and restoring their health, rather than keeping a safe and expected distance. There’s the story of a crowd gathering stones meant to inflict punishment, while Jesus knelt there in the dirt, looking into the eyes of a woman caught in adultery, and saying to the crowd, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then there’s the story of Peter asking Jesus how many times we should forgive someone, and Jesus answers, “seven times seventy.”
But do we live life differently in light of Jesus’ life?
We know the story of Jesus’ death. He was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver and delivered to the authorities by the kiss of His betrayer. He was mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross. He died for your sins and mine, requesting of God in His last breath, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
But do we live differently in light of Jesus’ death?
Jesus was born, lived, and died for us. Now what? Belief in Jesus is fundamental to salvation, but are our lives any different because of our convictions?
As 2017 comes to a close and the new year begins, perhaps we should ask ourselves some hard questions. Do our actions follow our beliefs? Do our words and our lives reflect the One whom we profess as Lord and Savior? If we find the stories in the Bible to be relevant today, then we must allow the words to come alive not just in the pages of our Bibles, but in the pages of our hearts. We must not merely nod our heads in agreement with the greatest commandment, but we must submit our lives to making it a reality.
This means living a life of loving others rather than judging them. This means living a life of service rather than selfish ambition. This means living out the words, “Not my will Father, but Yours be done.”
Perhaps the greatest challenge for us as Christians is not to believe, but to live differently in light of our beliefs.
Now what? So what? What difference does faith make?
It makes all the difference in the world because it turns sinners into redeemed believers, and selfish people into willing servants—that is…if we put it into practice.
-Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother of two and an accountant. She is a Georgia native currently living in the foothills of North Carolina. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children. Her blogging for Nurturing Faith is sponsored by a gift from First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga. Additional writings may be found at nomamasperfect.com