Saturday, November 15, 2008

Get Salvaged This Christmas

When I was a kid my dad worked for an independent oil company. He was the district manager over several gas stations in Kentucky and West Virginia. Most of his time was spent driving from station to station doing whatever it is that mangers do. From time to time I would travel with him, particularly during my three weeks of Christmas break from school. I have vivid memories of watching the winter landscape fly by the passenger window at 65 mph. The pockets of snow tucked into the crannies of Appalachia. The belching white smoke of the factory stacks. The overstuffed trucks and trains pregnant with chunks of freshly harvested coal. It all blended with the chill of winter to create some of my earliest December memories.

There is one other memory of those endless drives that has never left me.

On one particular year, some well meaning, law breaking Christian had taken the time to spray paint “Jesus Saves” on every bridge, overhang and cement foundation in the tri-state area. As a ten or eleven year old kid I would notice the theo-vandalism every few dozen miles. It made me think. Less about Jesus and more about the rogue evangelist who devoted his or her entire life to stealthily defacing government property in the name of spiritual revolution. As a kid I was torn between admiring this rebel zealot and denouncing him as a born again whacko. (I thought too much as a child…)

I wondered if that was the best way to introduce people to Jesus. While as a recent convert, I admired the faceless evangelist’s brave attempts; I wasn’t about to go back to Mrs. Taylor’s fifth grade class that January and paint “Jesus Saves” in strategic places on the Russell Elementary School playground.

Maybe it was those long drives sitting in silence with my father, listening to Christmas music on the AM dial, and being regularly bombarded with a simple gospel message that formed me into what I am today. God has a way of taking something that rote and turning it into a life passion. He can take something painful and masterfully transform it into hope. He takes our weaknesses and refines them into strengths.

And here we see what that daring, though potentially misguided graffiti preacher was telling me all along: Jesus Saves. He redeems. He restores, recycles, repurposes, reclaims, re-uses and releases. Jesus doesn’t simply save us one day when we say a prayer and then retire from his work. Neither does he simply sit around waiting to save us some day in the future after death when he opens heaven’s gate. He is saving us. Yesterday he was saving us. Tomorrow he will still be saving us. And, most urgently, he is saving us today. Right now. He is in the process of taking all that we were and turning it into all that we will be. He’s the master artist who can take a pile of junk and slowly mold it into a breathlessly beautiful masterpiece.

This is, after all, what his name means. Jesus means God Saves Us.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:20-22 (NIV, emphasis mine)

This Christmas season at The Vineyard, we are going to explore this idea from every angle. We are going to let Jesus save us. Save us from ourselves, our pain, our worries, our sins. Save us from the world around us and the plans of those who would do us harm. Save us from the temptation to settle for a life without passion or meaning or influence. This year, we all get saved…again.

On the weekend of November 29/30, we will be launching a new series called “Salvage…restored, recycled, recovered, released.” We will examine how this baby born so long ago into the trash heap of humanity is still able to take the junk of our lives and redeem it with eternal purpose.

The four-week series will culminate with The {Re} Gifter, a family friendly Christmas experience. Part film, part stage play, part interactive art exhibit, this experience is our version of spray painting “Jesus Saves” on an interstate cement post. We simply want to introduce people to The Vineyard and to the story of Jesus, the One Who Saves. We want them to simply start thinking about a God who loves them. Over 100 volunteers are working feverishly to produce an event that you can feel confident to invite your friends to. Think of it as a way to begin a long and ongoing conversation about Jesus with your family and friends in a non-threatening and entertaining way.

The {Re} Gifter will show in six shows over three nights: December 21, 22 and 23. There will be two shows each evening at 6:00 and 8:00 in the VCC auditorium.

This Christmas could change everything. What was true in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains twenty years ago and in a simple Judean manager two thousand years ago, is still true today: Jesus Saves.

Let this be the year that you invite someone into the journey of salvation with you.

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