It’s the middle of July in Dallas, Texas, and I’m writing this year’s Advent book for our ministry. It takes a little creative thinking to “get my fa-la-la on” when it is one hundred degrees outside. (And that’s in the shade!) Thankfully the Hallmark Channel is celebrating “Christmas in July” and I’ve taped a few of those movies to put me in the Christmas spirit. QVC is having their Christmas in July shows but I can’t bring myself to buy any Christmas décor or gifts quite yet.
Truthfully, I enjoy writing the Advent book in July. Jesus left heaven and stepped into our world as a tiny infant. We do have a creative and miraculous God! I had a completely different plan for the Advent book; but God seems to enjoy changing our plans. I was researching my original idea when I ran across one of my favorite verses in Scripture. The words are the pure genius of God explained through the Apostle Paul. The verse says:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus
my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
As I pondered that verse, an Advent book was born, along with this blog post. The reason for Christmas is found in the phrase, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” Most scholars believe that Paul wrote Philippians while he was under house arrest in Rome. The Apostle wanted to thank the Philippians for what they had done for him, and for what they were doing for the Kingdom. Paul was proud of this church for many reasons, even though he had to fuss at them for a few things too. False teachers were confusing the church and teaching their ideas about Christianity instead of God’s. They were slandering Paul as well. I picture Paul sitting in a house in Rome, pouring his heart out to that church.
He said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” I read that verse again last week and heard God say, “That’s my reason for Christmas.” And that thought was my “Christmas in July” and the reason this year’s Advent book took a completely different turn.
Paul didn’t know the eternal impact his letter would have on the world when he wrote it. He was under house arrest in Rome, writing a letter he hoped would help a church stay strong in the faith. He had no way of knowing that nineteen hundred fifty-four years later (give or take a few)—his words would inspire a new direction for an Advent book. He would never have conceived that his letter would endure but the city he wrote to wouldn’t.
What will God inspire us to do today that will last eternally? Chances are we can’t answer that question because only God knows. Here is what we can know: nothing is more important today than knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord. According to Paul, whatever else we have planned for ourselves is garbage compared to knowing God’s holy Son. Paul thought he was telling a church to stop listening to a few false teachers when he wrote those words. He had no idea God would use his letter to inspire countless sermons, commentaries, lessons, lives, and even an Advent book in 2017.
How did God use the Apostle Paul’s words to speak to you today? Jesus was born as an infant, in a Bethlehem cave. The creative power of God accepted the limits of a human body so that you and I could know him. And God preserved a letter, written by a man under house arrest, so that mankind would always understand that knowing Jesus surpasses everything else.
Take a minute and enter the cave in Bethlehem. Kneel in front of Mary and look at the infant she is holding in her arms. Then, allow Mary to place that baby in your arms. That is why God gave us Christmas . . . in July and every other month. We can know Jesus; and nothing matters more.
Join us at www.christianparenting.org and chime in on this week’s discussion question: How do you know if your children are truly believers?