READ: Luke 1
THINK: I recently saw one of the most intense and nerve-wracking movies I’ve ever seen in my life – Argo. It’s a crazy movie. The language is pretty salty and there is some disturbing violence, but it’s really fascinating because it’s based on this incredible true story. And I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but there was something in the story that really struck me as I watched it. In late 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by revolutionaries. He was given asylum in the United States – who had helped him gain and maintain power – and the revolutionaries were angry about it. They wanted him extradited to Iran to stand trial. So they stormed the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Tehran and took over 50 Americans hostage. 6 Americans, though, escaped before the building was taken and basically hid out in the homes of some Canadian ambassadors, knowing that if they were discovered they would be labeled “spies” and immediately killed. And they also knew that it was only a matter of time until the Iranians would figure out that they had escaped the embassy and then would hunt them down. Because of that reality, the CIA had to come up with a plan to get them out – and quick – and it wasn’t going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination because Americans in Tehran stood out like a sore thumb. The movie Argo is about a CIA agent named Tony Mendez and his plan to get these 6 Americans out of Tehran. And it’s a pretty amazing plan but here’s what really struck me: Tony Mendez’s plan to get these 6 people out of Tehran meant that he had to personally fly in to Tehran. He had to make the conscious choice to go into the most dangerous place on earth in that moment with the full knowledge that if he was found out, if there was one minor slip-up, he was going to be tortured and killed. I mean, he knew that if he went there was a good chance that this would fail and he’d lose his life. But he also knew that if he didn’t go all 6 of those people would definitely lose theirs. So he went. It was a suicide mission! And he went. To save them. He went in.
It’s pretty unbelievable. And it really got me feeling Christmasy! Trees, lights, ornaments, cookies, carols, & hostage crises really get me into the spirit of the season! But one of these things is not like the others. When we think about Christmas in our minds we picture this incredibly joyful season that’s represented by most of the stuff on that list – and also Santa and presents. But I think sometimes we need to stop and think when we’re singing cute little songs about “having yourself a merry little Christmas” and remember what Christmas really is. Because on a raw historical level it’s the story of an unmarried teenager who got visited by an angel and then got pregnant had to ride a donkey while she was 9 months pregnant and then give birth in a barn without an epidural to a baby on suicide mission to save the world! There is nothing merry or little about that! Because of sin, all of humanity was facing certain death and eternal separation from God and so he went in! He stepped into history, taking on human flesh, so that he could ultimately give his life order that we might be saved! That’s what happened at Christmas. To save us…God stepped in to human history.
It’s a mind-blowing story, and it demands a response! I think it’s easy to get so caught up in all of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season that we never really allow the message of Christmas to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives. Another January comes and the only real difference in our lives is that we have some cool new stuff that we unwrapped. I want to invite you to something more this Christmas! This whole story of God becoming a man so that he could die so that you and I could be saved…it’s the most incredible story the world has ever known. The question for us is: how will we respond to it today? I believe that God is calling his people – you and me – to radically transform the world by showing it his love. The love that compelled him to step into human history by being born and the love that defined his entire life while he was here on earth and the love that ultimately compelled him to give up his live on the cross so that we could be forgiven and set free. How will you respond this Christmas? Will you answer his call the way that Mary did? Will you step back from all the noise of the Christmas season and let the reality of the story transform you? Will you say, like Mary, “God, I’m your servant”?
Doing that requires self-sacrifice. And it isn’t always easy. It wasn’t easy and it took self-sacrifice for Jesus to step in to our world. It wasn’t easy and it took self-sacrifice for Mary to step in to the role God had for her. It wasn’t easy and took self-sacrifice for Tony Mendez to step in to Tehran in 1980. But there are lost and hurting people all around us whose lives are on the line. Will you step in?
PRAY: I know Christmas Eve is a day that is usually packed with activity, but I really encourage you to spend a few moments with God today, just opening up and listening and allowing him to speak into your heart and your life. Commit, as Mary did, to being his servant, and let him tell you what that means for you today.