For some these are fighting words. “This season isn’t just a holiday season. This season is all about Jesus! The culture is trying to wipe Jesus out of Christmas!” some assert.
I am sure by now, most of you have seen a similar meme as the one above. “If we want to keep Christ in Christmas, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and the unwanted child, care for the ill, love your enemies.”
I am not sure who came up with the meme, but I think they’re right on.
There was a time when the people of Israel were fighting about what it meant to keep a fast to the Lord. Some were arguing that what was required was a stoppage of consuming food. As long as you did that, God was pleased. Others were saying that it wasn’t just about the consuming or not consuming food, but about living in a way that honors God.
Listen what God has to say:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cord of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? …If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise the darkness and your night will become like the noonday (Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10).
The following is an excerpt from Eric Metaxas’ book, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask).
It happened on Christmas Eve, 48 years ago. Three men took turns reading from the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis. They were nearly 250,000 miles away from Bethlehem, but since it was the night before Christmas, and there was no chimney from which to hang their stockings, the three astronauts inside the Apollo 8 capsule orbiting the moon thought it would be appropriate. So as Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders looked at the faraway Earth through the small window of the spacecraft, they read the verses: “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the Earth.”
Their distant-sounding voices from far beyond our atmosphere were broadcast live to the whole planet that night over radio and television. It was one of those moments that brought the world together, that helped us to see our common humanity as children of God whom he loves equally, and whom he placed on the beautiful planet that he made.
Seven months after this extraordinary event, in July 1969, another NASA spacecraft, Apollo 11, carried two astronauts to the surface of the moon itself. One of them, Commander Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, thought he might do something similar to mark what was certainly an epochal moment in the history of our race. But what could one do to mark the first time human beings landed on another heavenly body? He asked Dean Woodruff, the pastor of his church in Webster, Texas, who had an idea.
What if he were to take communion? What is more basic to humanity than bread and wine? He could do it as his own way of thanking God—for the Earth and for everyone on it, and for our amazing ability to do things like build spacecraft that could fly to the moon. So the pastor gave him a small amount of consecrated bread and wine and a tiny chalice, and Mr. Aldrin took them with him to the moon. After the Eagle had landed and he and Neil Armstrong sat in the Lunar Module, Mr. Aldrin said this over the radio:
“This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, read a Bible verse, and took communion. For reasons he explains in his own account, none of this was made public until Mr. Aldrin wrote about it in Guideposts magazine the following year:
“In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup.”
Then Mr. Aldrin read Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” He explained that he had wanted to read this over the radio back to Earth, but at the last minute NASA asked him not to because the agency was in a legal battle with the outspoken atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. As it happened, she was suing over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis on Christmas Eve. And that of course is why so few people have heard of this amazing story.
I sometimes wonder what’s more amazing, this story—or the fact that so few people know about it. When I first heard it I almost couldn’t believe it was true, but about 10 years ago I had the honor and privilege of meeting Buzz Aldrin in person and asking him about it.
Mr. Aldrin said that he agreed not to read the words over the radio, but only “reluctantly.” I find his own words of the event very moving: “I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”
And of course right now, as Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus, it’s fascinating to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were his words, the powerless newborn in the dirty manger who came to Earth from heaven, and who made the Earth and the moon and all of us, in His own image. And who, in the immortal words of Dante, is himself the “Love that moves the Sun and other stars.”
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
At some point, each of us have to take on the responsibility of growing in the faith. The primary responsibility for our spiritual maturity and growth is on us. At some point, we have to decide to grow up in our faith.
Infants are cute. And, infants are exhausting. Just ask any new parent of infants. They require 24/7 care. Feed me. Change me. Hold me. Entertain me. Me. Me. Me. It’s a good thing infants are cute. Grown adults couldn’t ever get away with such behavior!
What’s true for infants in families is true for infant Christians in the church. Being a baby has nothing to do with how long you’ve been going to church, but with how much you are taking responsibility for growing and maturing. If you are growing and maturing, you are on solid foods.
But what does that mean? It means that you are not being fed milk. You are taking solid food of God’s word and reading and studying it with others who are interested in growing. It means that you don’t just show up to church asking to be fed. You mature by growing in the knowledge of God’s word AND by serving God and his church. It means you take on the responsibility to help new baby Christians grow.
I thank God that many at the Little Church and Lakewoodgrace are growing and maturing. Friends, as we near the end of the year and start thinking about the new year, make it your goal to grow up and mature in your faith.
Here are the three basic foundations that we expect growing disciples to practice:
Worship – non-negotiable. We worship because God is God who is worthy of worship
Small Groups – We study God’s word together with others
Serve – We do our part in serving God and his church
Just because you are doing these things doesn’t necessarily mean that you are growing. But, if you are not doing these things, I can guarantee you are not growing.