I settled into my seat on a recent flight. A couple with three older children plunked themselves alongside me.  Suddenly, mom noticed that she didn’t have a television screen on the back of the seat in front of her. Instead, there was a small wall marking the aisle for the emergency escape.  “Why does this always have to happen to me?” she moaned.  I grinned. “It’s because you have a dark cloud over your head!”  She spotted the twinkle in my eye and laughed, as did her husband.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that this happened to me already just recently. I should be better at this. Normally, I’m a very positive person!”  I smiled and commented on how it’s a great example of how our past does indeed cloud our present.  Well, that set her off with excitement. “I love that stuff!” We were soon immersed in deep conversation, with her husband actively participating I was delighted to see.

Soon, spirituality came up. He was Jewish, she was Catholic but had converted to Judaism. They had even done a trip to the Holy Land together. Then she made a grim observation about Christianity.

“Why do they always have to show Jesus dying on the cross? He looks so gruesome and awful. It turns me right off.”

“Ah,” I responded, “While you are right, there is a good reason.”

“What’s that? she asked.

“It is the highlight of Christianity. Jesus didn’t have to die. He had a choice and he chose to die.”

“Really? I thought he was captured and sentenced and all that stuff.” She looked puzzled.

“Yes he was. But his Roman judge Pilate gave him a clear choice. All he had to do was deny his claim to be the Son of God and he was outathere! But he could not and would not deny his own truth.”

“Oh…” she said, “I never thought of it that way.”

“That’s why we celebrate his death – it was his greatest gift to us.”   It was an enjoyable conversation and she left with a copy of my book What’s Important Now for beach-time reading.

Jesus is amazing. He is the only person to ever have claimed to be God himself. His life was accurately foretold hundreds of years before his birth -eight times, I’m told by scholars. Furthermore, he taught a single-minded message of love given freely and willingly  – never under-pressure or with violence.

God’s love is a gift that arrived in the form of a small baby born in the humblest of circumstances to the simplest of people. From the very beginning, everything about Jesus is upside-down and backwards.  His entire life and message only make sense once you realize this truth.  Through the lens of upside-down-ness, we see God’s wisdom and the path to his joy and peace.

“Whoever is first shall be last and whoever is last shall be first.”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“Turn the other cheek.”

“If a man steals your cloak, give him your tunic too.”

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

“Happy are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

At this time of year, we celebrate the humble birth of the most powerful man who ever walked the face of the earth.  Let us give thanks and praise that God loved us so much that he sent us his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth to you and yours this season and always.

In his peace,

John †