Jesus encounters in Matthew 23 what you and I encounter every day—skin deep religion. You know what I mean – people who want to appear righteous yet do not live in integrity; those who flower their language will all sorts of spiritual phrases and yet do not cultivate time in their day to know God personally; people who serve and lead in ministries but are primarily concerned only with their Christian reputation. Now before you start ranting about those “shallow” or “hypocritical” Christians in your life, first take a look in the mirror! Each of us have this tendency. Each of us are faced with this temptation. Even when we KNOW the right answers, it is always difficult to live in the reality. It’s so easy for vital piety to become church performance. It’s so easy for morality to only go as deep as the habit we want to kick or the outer levels that others see.

I think that one of the main reasons that Jesus came to earth was to remedy this dilemma and to model what it looks like to live fully human. Jesus did not live from the “outside in” but from the “inside out.” Jesus’ entrance into our world came not with fanfare, music, and confetti but rather in simplicity, humility and obscurity. Into a culture preoccupied with religious performance, elitism and ritual came a baby, born to a poor family, in a small town, in a barn! What does that suggest to us about what it means to live the Christian life?

As we celebrate the birth of Christ during the next several weeks, allow me to remind you of a few things:

As easy as it is to do, we cannot evaluate our spiritual life based on or compared to those around us. In what ways do you do this? How can you break this pattern?

In the midst of the chaos of this season, what are some tangible ways that you can move from “fanfare to obscurity?” In what ways today can you carve out time for quietness, reflection, and simplicity?

What are the “whitewashed tombs” in your life that appear holy but only contain death and decay?

Remember this: as hard as you work to keep them painted and polished, they will eventually corrupt and infect your spiritual life. Is it possible today that the one who was born amongst animal refuse can attend do a work in your life as well?

Hail the Heaven born prince of peace, Hail the Sun of Righteousness
Light and Life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Mike Bill is the president of the Delanco Camp Meeting Association and a pastor at Sharptown Church.

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