Monthly Archives: December 2017

Why We Celebrate Christmas

After hearing the Christmas story over and over, year after year, its true meaning and impact may fade against the backdrop of today’s culture.  Yet, if we think about it, God’s willingness to become one of us is the greatest act of humility and love in all of human history.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” John 1:14

Here we have God, the Father, creator of all that exists, creator of the millions of galaxies and the billions of stars whose distance is measured in light years; this God who created the atom and the molecule whose size is measured in nanometers – that’s one billionth of a meter; this God who created the human person with a body, soul, and mind, became one of his created in order to free each of us from our sins and the world from its bondage to sin – to reconcile us to him and one another.   

Father William Barry, in his book, A Friendship Like No Other, says, “God took humanity seriously enough to become one of us, and we do God no service if we downplay what God has done in becoming human.”

God in Jesus was a real human being, born of Mary in the humblest of circumstances in a cave or stable with animals nearby.  He had to be toilet trained, learn a language and be raised from childhood to an adult just as we all have been.   His family was forced into exile to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod. He evidently followed his earthly father, Joseph, in the trade of a carpenter, for the people of Nazareth were later to ask, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3)

After assuming his public ministry, the leaders of his own religion handed him over to the Romans to die a horrible death.  God is no stranger to suffering.  God in Jesus knows what human life is like from the inside.  His desire for friendship, to dwell with us and in us knows no bounds.

A cobbler does not become a shoe, a cabinet maker does not become a cabinet, but God the Father and creator of all that exists became one of us.  Little wonder that history’s calendar is measured in terms of before and after this event.

Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus for what it is – the greatest act of humility and love in all of history.

Birth by the Holy Spirit

thenativity%20600%20x%20300The birth of the baby Jesus and our spiritual birth have a common element.  The agent for both is the Holy Spirit.

The conception of Jesus in Mary was brought about by the Holy Spirit.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

The same Holy Spirit is the source of our spiritual birth.  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3, 5)

Both Mary and Nicodemus asked the same question, “How can this be?”  Both the angel, Gabriel and Jesus gave the same answer.  It is by the Holy Spirit that these things happen. 

As a result, Jesus instructed the disciples before his ascension not to leave Jerusalem, “but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… and “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1: 4-5, 8)

Thus, as Jesus was born through the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was the Church.  And so too, are we.  As St. Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Ever since I was a young boy growing up in a small town in Iowa, I have experienced a special feeling of God’s presence on Christmas Eve.  It is a feeling of peace and love.  A calm descends; the earth is quiet from all the hurrying and scurrying of Christmas preparations.  It is the Holy Spirit.

When I was old enough to drive, I would often leave the house after our Christmas Eve traditions with family were completed and drive through various neighborhoods in our small town.  Very few cars were on the roads.  Some houses would be dark.  Others would be full of lights with people inside celebrating the coming of the baby Jesus.

The words of the song Silent Night gently echoed: “Silent night, Holy night; All is calm, All is bright.”

As we move closer to the celebration of Christmas this year, let us remember the role of the Holy Spirit – the means by which the creator of all that exists became one of us through the Virgin Mary, and the means by which we can experience God’s presence and saving grace at this very moment.

Jesus, the Great Multiplier

CIC_FoundersCropWe are familiar with the story reported in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish, gave thanks, and proceeded to distribute the bread and fish to a crowd of five thousand men, not counting women and children.   

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish” that were left over. (Mark 6:30-44)

The five loaves and two fish were of course, insufficient to feed such a large crowd, but Jesus took what was insufficient and made it sufficient.

He does the same thing with us.  He takes what is insufficient – our faith, our love, our knowledge, our wisdom, our various skills – and makes them sufficient to carry out his will and purpose.

Thirty-six years ago, three men in three different cities were trying to develop some kind of Christian outreach to people in business.  Each of them was trying to serve a need – helping people in business to see how God was calling them to impact the marketplace by bringing the presence of Christ to bear through their day-to-day actions.

Two of them, Louie Grams from Minneapolis and John Mooney from Phoenix, Arizona, met at a conference and discovered they were each trying to do the same thing.  Thereafter, Louie and Bud Rose from South Bend, Indiana got together and started to develop a format for a possible retreat.  They then met with John, and together prayed and asked God how they should proceed.

Over a couple of different weekends their prayer resulted in the outlines for a weekend retreat where attendees would be given a vision of being Christ in the workplace.  They would be encouraged and equipped to be God’s presence in their work by the power of the Holy Spirit, exercising faith, integrity and excellence in their day-to-day actions.  They would be challenged to be good stewards of God’s creation, using their talents, time, money and possessions to impact how business gets done.

Today, Christians in Commerce (CIC) has thirty-three chapters across the United States, with a multitude of small groups meeting weekly.  Fifteen thousand people have attended the weekend retreats and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in their workplaces. Twenty-three chapters in Africa have brought Christian renewal not only to Christian business people, but also to marriages, and youth.  Food for the poor and numerous water wells have contributed to the welfare of many communities.

Publications by CIC include a monthly newsletter and daily e-mail reflections which apply God’s word to workplace related challenges and issues.  Podcasts share stories of people being Christ to the people and circumstances in their workplaces.  A recent video based workshop, Working for our Father, gives people a vision for how important their work is to God and how it is a part of his plan for creation.

As Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish, we see how God takes the inspiration he has given to three men, and multiplies their efforts by the power of the Holy Spirit into something none of them would have been able to do on their own. 

Whatever task we face, let us call on Jesus, the Great Multiplier, to assist our every action!