Why Do We Come Together?
Why Do We Come Together?
Every year at churches, street corners and even the mall, carols and hymns can be heard bringing in the Christmas season. Christmas isn’t just another day; it’s different. It’s not because of the snow, not everyone gets it. It’s not the parades or bowl games, not everyone watches. It’s not about the gifts, we don’t always get want we want. Something about this season changes us. The feeling is perhaps described best in the movie Scrooged (1988). Frank Cross, portrayed by Bill Murray, asserts:
“It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer. We smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!”
We behave differently, we seem to focus on others more and ourselves less. We exercise more patience, compassion and giving. We gather friends and family for dinner and to exchange gifts. Apart from perhaps Thanksgiving, Christmas seems to bring us together more. But it also makes me wonder, what would Jesus think about Christmas? While the Bible focuses on the ministry of Jesus, it provides a great deal of insight into His person.
As a humble man, I don’t think that Jesus would like how commercialized Christmas has become. He might be angered, as when He turned over tables and forced money changers to leave the temple (Mark 11:15). I think He would prefer we focused less of gifts and more on the less fortunate. But when it comes to our gathering in celebration, I don’t think He would have a problem; and perhaps He would rejoice with us. Why do I believe this?
We know that Jesus had a great sense of humor. Author and Pastor, Jeremy Myers tells us that “the humor of Jesus is rich, deep, insightful, and most of all, intentional. His humorous stories and witty remarks were always for the purpose of making a point, and getting people to think about what they believed.” We also know that Jesus loved a good party. Jesus performed His first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding party (John 2: 1-11). He may have done this because His mother asked, to save the bride and groom from embarrassment or just because He enjoyed seeing people coming together. Michael Card (1990), cited at JesusCentral.com, states “whenever Jesus wasn't preaching or teaching you'd find Him at a party. It might be at a tax collector's or at a Pharisee's home (religious leader). The guests might include power men in the community or the riffraff. What seemed to bother the stuffy, "religious" types wasn't that Jesus went to parties, but that He seemed to enjoy Himself too much.”
There is no doubt that Jesus loved a good gathering. Jesus founded a gathering ministry. He gathered people to teach, feed and heal them; most importantly He gathered those in need of redemption and salvation. So as Christmas approaches, I think He would want us to gather. For many of us, “Christmas” has always been a time for gathering and celebration but this year we will wear masks, physically distance or take other precautions, or we will gather using some social media platform.
Perhaps the need for “gathering”, is a gift from God, imprinted in our nature. Merriam-Webster defines imprinting as “a rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal and establishes a behavior pattern (such as recognition of and attraction to its own kind or a substitute).” If you think about it, our existence is structured on social gatherings. We gathered as “hunters and gatherers” for food. We marry to build and form new family lines. We work in organizations and join groups to pursue common goals and purpose. We gather as believers to foster a sense of community and enhance our faith. We gather to celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations; and to mourn, and share grief. Who could forget the gathering at Bethany mourning the death of Lazarus, a friend and brother (John 11) or the reaction of a father whose prodigal son had returned home (Luke 15:22)? The reason that we gather isn’t as important as the gathering itself. Author and Chef, Alice Waters explains:
“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive. “
We don’t have to wait until church service, President’s Day, Independence Day or any other holiday to gather. The truth is God is not really interested in why we gather. He isn’t looking for a gift under the tree, a birthday cake or card. When we gather, His presence is guaranteed. I find His promise, in Matthew 18:20 (NLV), both comforting and reassuring to me:
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name,
there I am with them.”
God wants us to gather so that we can be with Him. So, whether it is in person, taking necessary precautions, or via a social media platform, we should remember that we gather, not to exchange gifts, eat dinner or just to be together; but to be with God. It just might help change us into becoming “the people we always hoped we could be.”
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