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Greetings All,

This week's 'thoughts' come to you from John Eldredge, in his excellent devotional called "The Ransomed Heart." I have many devotional books, and would recommend this as one of the better.

The first thought has to do with the danger of forgetting, and the second with the mysterious adventure of walking with God. I trust if the one does not speak to where you are at, the other will! Enjoy!

"The most crippling thing that besets the pilgrim heart is simply forgetfulness, or more accurately, the failure to remember. You will forget. This isn't the first book you've read in search of God. What do you remember from the others? If God has been so gracious as to touch you through my words, it will not have been the first time he has touched you. What have you done with all the other times? I have had enough encounters with God to provide a lifetime of conviction -- why don't I live more faithfully? Because I forget.

I am humbled by the story of the golden calf. These people, the Jews God has just delivered from Egypt, have seen an eyeful. First came the plagues; then the Passover; then the escape from Pharaoh's armies and the last-minute rescue straight through the Red Sea. After that came the manna; breakfast in bed, so to speak, every morning for months. They drank water from a rock. They heard and saw the fireworks at Mt. Sinai and shook in their sandals at the presence of God. I think it's safe to say that this band of ransomed slaves had reasons to believe.

Then their leader, Moses, disappears for forty days into the 'consuming fire' that enveloped the top of the mountain, which they could see with their own eyes. While he's up there, they blow the whole thing off for a wild bacchanalian party in honor of an idol made from their earrings.

My first reaction is arrogant; How could they possibly be so stupid? How could they forget everything they've received straight from the hand of God?

My second is a bit more honest: That's me; I could do that; I forget all the time.."

Then second:

"'The spiritual life cannot be made suburban,' said Howard Macey. 'It is always frontier and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.' The greatest obstacle to realizing our dreams is the false self's hatred of mystery. That's a problem, you see, because mystery is essential to adventure. More than that, mystery is the heart of the universe and the God who made it.

The most important aspects of any man's world -- his relationship with his God and with the people in his life, his calling, the spiritual battles he'll face -- every one of them is fraught with mystery. But that is not a bad thing; it is a joyful, rich part of reality and essential to our soul's thirst for adventure.

There are no formulas with God. Period. So there are no formulas for the man who follows him. God is a person, not adoctrine. He operates not like a system --not even a theological system -- but with the originality of a truly free and alive person. 'The realm of God is dangerous,' says Archbishop Anthony Bloom. 'You must enter into it and not just seek information about it.'

Take Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. The Israelites are staged to make their first military strike into the Promised Land and there's a lot hanging on this moment -- the morale of the troops, their confidence in Joshua, not to mention their reputation that will precede them to every other enemy that awaits. This is their D-Day, so to speak, and word is going to get around.

How does God get the whole thing off to a good start? He has them march around the city blowing trumpets for a week. On the seventh day he has them do it seven times and then give a big holler. It works marvelously, of course.

And you know what? It never happens again. Israel never uses that tactic again."

Forgetting and wanting to rid life of mystery (by using formulas that have worked, and then packaging and selling them to others) are things we often struggle with, or things American Christianity has made part of the economic fiber of our religious life.

Yet we can't do either in regard to the celebration of Christmas without ruining it! To forget the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus is to impoverish the soul, and to rid it of mystery or want to somehow explain it (or as some would say, its scientific improbability) is to make it less than the divine and supernatural miracle of grace that it is.

It is what it is and is best honored by being remembered with awe and the bent knee, for it is as C. S. Lewis put it, "the central event in the history of the Earth." "Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this." It is the"Grand Miracle; all discussion of [other miracles] in isolation from it is futile."

Have a blessed Christmas observance as you simply remember and revel in the mystery of His birth.

Pastor Jeff