Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lessons From The Wisemen

It’s that time of the year again when everyone around the world celebrate Christmas –a day to mark the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some celebrate because they know the significance of that day, while several others do so just for the fun of it. As another Christmas is here, I have a question on my mind. Do people really understand the true meaning and essence of Christmas? Do they understand what they are celebrating? It reminds me of the story of ants that I read some time ago. A group of ants were marching towards a place all together. The one at the extreme end touched the one in front of him and asked “Johnny, where are we headed?” “I don’t know”, replied Johnny, “I just saw everyone moving and decided to join them!” You will agree with me that this journey will end nowhere. This is the exact way some people celebrate Christmas. They do not know the true essence of it. They are celebrating because others are. They are celebrating the day because it is a national holiday. May I ask you why you are celebrating this Christmas?

Christmas without Christ is just an ordinary mass! Period! Can you imagine going for a birthday party without the celebrant in attendance? I am not sure it will be a great party. The true essence of Christmas will be missing if Christ is missing in your heart.

Can you imagine going for a birthday party without the celebrant in attendance? I am not sure it will be a great party
Thousands of years ago, a group of people, who witnessed the maiden Christmas didn’t just let the day go by. They made a great significance of the day. They were a group of guys with humble beginnings. I like the way St Luke introduces them in Luke 2: 8

Now, there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

They were just ordinary shepherds. They were not people in the top echelon of the society. They sat silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Today, as I read the story of Christmas again, I see a couple of things to learn from these shepherds, who the Bible also referred to as wisemen.

Realized Vision

In Luke’s account of the story, the angel of the Lord appeared to these wisemen with the glad tidings of the birth of the savior. The angel told them that they will see a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Immediately the angel left them, look at what they did (Luke 2: 15-16)

So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us”. And they came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger
These men immediately acted on the vision. They followed the vision that God showed them. They sought for guidance as they pursued their vision. In Mathew’s account, they encountered series of hindrances from Herod the king, but they did not allow these to blur their vision. There was no account whatsoever that they stopped to rest on the way. Not until they realized their vision

What vision do you have in your heart? How are you pursuing it? Are you acting on it or giving excuses why it can’t be realized? The wisemen didn’t do this. If you also want to be wise, then act on your God given vision NOW.

Real Worship

My wife and I were discussing of late on the topic of real worship. Today in churches, you see people dancing to praise worship and you wonder if they are really doing it unto the Lord, or to get noticed. Praise worship leaders climb the pulpit more interested in very nice music arrangements, rather than leading us to God’s presence. We see a gradual dearth of real worship. The wisemen here worshiped in Spirit and in truth. The Bible says in Mathew 2: 11
….they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they had come into the house, the saw the young child with Mary His Mother, and fell down and worshipped him
There was nothing systemic about this worship. No music. No drums. No pianos. I am not sure there was any sound. Only real worship. These men fell down. They literally threw themselves at the saviour! They worshiped with reckless abandon. In the Jewish custom, this was only done to a King. The acknowledged Christ as their Superior King.
May I ask you this question? When last have you truly worshipped Him? When last did you throw yourself at Him in reckless abandon? Selah!

Remarkable Giving
…And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Not only did these wisemen worship the Lord, they also gave out of their treasures. They gave in abundance. Notice that they didn’t know this family before. They angel never told them to give. They were not under any obligation to give. However, they opened their treasures and gave abundantly. Those gifts were not mere gifts from shepherds. It must have cost them a lot. They gave generously.

One other thing struck me about their giving. They gave significantly. The wise men…recognizing Jesus as King of Kings wanted to give their best as well. Each of the three gifts given had both a symbolic meaning and a practical use.

•Gold, as it is today was very valuable. To find gold you have to dig underground and find which was very difficult back in Bible times because you didn’t have the tools you have today.
•Gold has always been a means of exchange…something that for Mary & Joseph would come in handy as they would soon travel to Egypt and would need food, clothing and shelter.
•Symbolically Gold represents kingship. The King that Christ is for us. It also represents the purification process we go through in our trials as a Christian.

•Frankincense is made by cutting a tree named “Arbor Thurisfrom” found Persia, Arabia and India. It’s like a sap that is gathered and then dried for 3 months and becomes a like a hardened resin or gum.
•Frankincense is used as a perfume but mostly it was burned as sweet incense during worship. During the Exodus Aaron would burn Frankincense at the altar as a sweet offering to the Lord.
•Practically Frankincense would be a familiar smell to baby Jesus as this was the same God that was worshiped in the Old Testament. It would also help it getting the stable smelling better with all those animals in there with them. You could say that Frankincense was kinda of the Yankee Candle of that time.
•Symbolically Frankincense represented the divinity of Christ because as mentioned Frankincense was burnt as an offering to God.

•Myrrh, like Frankincense, also is the sap from a tree that is hardened and then used. However, unlike, Frankincense which is sweet…Myrrh has a bitter taste to it.
•Myrrh was mostly used to embalm the dead because it had the property to preserve. It was also used as a perfume, an ingredient of holy ointments mentioned in Exodus but it’s most practical use for Mary & Joseph would be it’s medical uses. Today Myrrh is used today in toothpaste, mouthwash and make-up.
•Lastly, Myrrh represents the bitter cup that Christ had to drink in suffering for our sins and the healing for us that his death brings.

When celebrating with your loved ones this holiday season, take a moment to remind yourself of the first Christmas and the impact that it has had on the world in which we live. Any wise man today will still do what these wisemen did. Wise men still seek Jesus!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Magic Of Humour

There has been a decided paradigm shift over the last fifteen years from humour often being thought of as "silly" or "not appropriate," to it being a welcome addition to practically every area of society. The last five years especially have seen an incredible insurgence of humor into the heretofore "no humor permitted" corporate world.

It is interesting how much we pay comedians to make us laugh these days. Professional humorists are one of the top paid people in advanced societies. Check Forbes 100 most paid celebrities and you will find several humourists on the list. It shows the importance that humour plays in our evolving world.

So why are we embracing humour now? Out-of-control stress in both work and home life caused people’s pendulums to swing way too far to one side. Humour is now being used as one of the most powerful forces to help swing the pendulum back to center. (And maybe even further, if we’re lucky!).

It was so cold where we were,” one man boasted, “that the candle froze and we couldn’t blow it out.” “That’s nothing!” said the other. “Where we were the words came out of our mouths in little pieces of ice and we had to fry them to see what we were talking about.
Humour sells. 

I’m not talking about funny commercials, although they certainly are more memorable than "straight" commercials. I’m talking about a salesperson trying to make a sale. If you can get your prospect to laugh at something in your proposal….or presentation….you have instantly shot to the top of his or her mind. We like people who make us laugh…..and we do business with people we like. And when people are laughing, they don’t feel like they’re being "sold". What can you do to get your laughs? You’re only limited by your imagination.

Humour heals.

There have been countless medical studies and books written on the healing power of humour. I’m not a doctor but I’ve seen enough cases of this to know its validity. Laughing causes endorphins to be released in the system, and they may be more powerful than diet and exercise put together. (Or so you can tell yourself every time you procrastinate your workout sessions.) I think that’s one of the reasons that so many comedians live such long lives. They are surrounded by laughter….their own and their audience’s.

A man was praying, “Lord, is it true that to You a minute is like a thousand years and a penny is like a thousand dollars?” The Lord answered, “Yes.” Then the man asked, “Then can I have a penny?” The Lord replied. “In a minute.
The holy creed gives credence to this fact. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Pro 17:22). A good sense of humour will no doubt prolong your life. It is as good (if not better) than medicine. Isn’t that good news for those of us who hates taking drugs! Laughter can do the same job!

Humour diffuses tension.

A speaker is heading to the podium, trips, and falls down. The crowd gasps and there is immediate tension. The speaker quickly looks up and says, "I will now take questions from the floor." A huge laugh follows, and the speaker picks himself up and regains his dignity. Not all of us can think that quickly on their feet….or off their feet, as it were. But when faced with a tense situation, the power of humor will work more quickly to diffuse it than any other remedy.
A fellow found a note at home from his wife saying that she was suddenly called out of town but that he was going to love his dinner for the evening. He could find it on Page 28 of the cookbook!
Another speaker steps onto the platform. Either the wood is rotted, or the supports are bad, but the speaker falls right through the platform, as it collapses around him. Again, tension fills the room. Until the speaker quickly looks up and says, "Don’t mind me. It’s just a stage I’m going through." Both of these stories illustrate how humorous quick thinking can not only diffuse tension, but can raise your credibility to an even higher level than had there been no problem.

Humour gets results. 

The bottom line is that humor gets results. No matter what the need is, there is a way that humor can be used to help serve that need. Humour negates anger. Humour creates credibility. Humour gets votes. Humour gets ratings. Humour commands attention. Humour overcomes objections. The list goes on and on. Whatever hurdles you might be facing at work or at home, don’t be afraid to try humour as a technique for clearing that hurdle.
An IQ test question given to a banker, an electrician, and a politician was, “What term would you use to describe the problem that results when outflow exceeds inflow?” The banker wrote, “Overdraft,” the electrician wrote, “Overload,” and the politician wrote, “What problem?
You can’t stay mad when you’re laughing. So try to keep laughing. You’ll live longer. You’ll sleep better. And people will wonder what you’re smiling at all the time.