I came across the following quote at For The Church’s website:
“There is a great danger this Christmas season of missing the point. And I'm not referring simply to idolatrous consumption and materialism. I'm talking about Christmas religiosity. It is very easy around this time to set up our Nativity scenes, host our Christmas pageants and cantatas, read the Christmas story with our families, attend church every time the door is open, and insist to ourselves and others that Jesus is the reason for the season, and yet not see Jesus. With the eyes of our heart, I mean.
I suppose there is something about indulging in the religious Christmas routine that lulls us into thinking we are dwelling in Christ when we are really just set to seasonal autopilot, going through the festive and sentimental motions. Meanwhile the real person Jesus the Christ goes neglected in favor of his plastic, paper, and video representations. Don't get distracted from Jesus by "Jesus." This year, plead with the Spirit to interrupt your nice Christmas with the power of Jesus' gospel.” – Jared Wilson
The emphasis above is mine. I found that sentence convicting. I, as a minister, am particularly susceptible to go on “seasonal autopilot” all the while thinking I am “dwelling in Christ.” I work in a church. I am surrounded by Christmas-y stuff; prayers, posters, sermons and songs. But being surrounded by these things is not the same as dwelling in Christ. The presence of God in our lives—God with us—is something we should be intentional about.
It is something we should desire; a real experience of his presence. Pastor John Piper is helpful in regards to the presence of God:
“The presence of God or the nearness of God is a metaphor from two sides. One, our experience of it and the other, God’s expression of it. Our experience of it means that we taste or feel or realize the reality of God more directly, more authentically, more intimately, more effectively — that is, producing more effects in our lives — more certainly, more satisfyingly, or more terrifyingly, and so on. In other words, his presence as we experience him is the heightening of his reality in our lives either for good, if we are in his grace, or for ill, if we are under his wrath.”
Again, the above emphasis is mine. I want to experience the presence of God this Christmas season “more directly, more authentically, more intimately, more effectively — that is, producing more effects in our lives — more certainly, more satisfyingly.” God make it so.
One of the ways we can be intentional about a greater experience of God’s presence this season is found in Colossians 3:16 where Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (ESV).” Though Paul is speaking to the church at Colossae, I think we can apply this personally. As we intend to dwell in Christ this Christmas season we can let the Word of Christ dwell in us. As commentator Douglas Moo notes,
“The message about Christ should take up permanent residence among the Colossians; it should constantly be at the centre of the communities activities and worship. “Richly” suggests that this constant reference to the word of Christ should not be superficial or passing but that it should be a deep and penetrating contemplation that enables the message to have transforming power in the life of the community.”
There are many ways we can be more intentional about dwelling in Christ and experiencing god’s presence more directly and authentically. Certainly one of those ways is by having his Word, specifically the gospel of Jesus Christ, take up “permanent residence” whereby his Word dwelling in us is not “superficial or passing” but rather “deep and penetrating.”
My prayer for you this season is that you would not be on autopilot, but that you would be intentional and purposefully dwelling in Christ through his Word dwelling in you and that you would experience his presence in profound ways.