That Changed Everything

Have you ever experienced a moment that changed everything for you? A moment that you can look at - and without a doubt - say your life hasn’t been the same since?

Maybe it was moving to a new city or school. Maybe it was a new friend entering your life or an old friend exiting. Maybe it was a beautiful marriage or the birth of your first child ... or a painful divorce or child turning away from you.

Maybe your “That Changed Everything” moment had nothing to do with the things of Earth - instead it took place due to a spiritual experience with God in which you KNEW that your faith was real.

These moments of change turn your world upside down. They’re like walking through a windy alleyway on a rainy day and helplessly watching as your umbrella flips inside out.

A paradigm shift doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Yes, the moments that cause such transitions might be difficult or stressful in nature. But sometimes God is shaping us during our trials.

There was a particularly windy area of the University of Kentucky’s campus where I used to watch people react to their umbrellas losing control and flipping inside out (or flying away) as they tried to simply keep their lives incident-free. People’s responses generally fell into three categories:

1. Anger - A seeming disbelief that their trusty umbrellas could have so openly betrayed them. Gnashing of teeth. Not-Safe-for-Church language. Sometimes direct retaliation against the umbrellas, including but not limited to throwing them on the ground or wildly swinging them from side-to-side.

2. Acceptance - An understanding that things like an umbrella turning inside out just happen. We can’t avoid such problems without better technology, so we have to stop walking, turn our umbrellas back to their proper downward-facing-shape, then hope it doesn’t happen again.

3. Amusement - A recognition that God’s creations (people, weather) intersecting with humanity’s creations (buildings, umbrellas) can be hilarious. Our earthly lives are too short to take seriously, after all.

As you might imagine, I most enjoyed the responses of the people in the last camp. They embraced the moment and kept moving. Yes, things were happening in an unexpected way, but that didn’t make the result inherently bad.

For me, the moment that changed everything wasn’t when my dad died, or when I graduated from college, or when I moved to Kentucky. No, the moment that changed my life forever was kind of like the moment that changed the world forever…

The moment that changed life as I knew it can be summarized in this simple picture from May of  2012:

harbs and dad.jpg

My time was no longer simply “my time.” God’s creation had intersected with my world, and I had to react. I could try the “business as usual” approach and keep working 16-hour days, or I could embrace the life-altering change I was experiencing.

It took a few weeks, but I eventually left the stress of my doctoral program. As I gave God control, He showed me the beauty of raising a child (something He experiences with every human on Earth, by the way). And just a few short months later, He gave me the confidence and abilities to join the staff of a large church. So yes, even though I was denying myself and the purpose I had been living for every day in Kentucky prior to my daughter’s birth, I actually became healthier and happier than ever. All I had to do was no longer live for myself.

A baby changed everything.

You see where this is going, right? This is where I should insert verses from Luke about Christ’s birth (don’t worry; they’re coming). But I’d rather start by examining what the scripture tells us about the effect Christ has on our lives. I’d rather start by demonstrating why Christ’s birth wouldn’t just change things for Mary and Joseph … but for everyone.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (ESV)

It’s a beautiful verse that speaks to the wonderful, mystical change that happens in us when we accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. Things aren’t supposed to go on in the same way as before! Usually we only see analysis of verse 17, as it’s one of the more famous verses of the Bible. I included the two verses before verse 17 as well, however, in order to highlight the extent to which we should change upon recognizing what Christ did for us.

Look at what verse 16 says: “We regard no one according to the flesh.

Wow!

That’s speaking to not seeing people as they are in this broken world, not seeing them according to their inadequacies, their sicknesses, their popularity, their friendliness, their goodness, their cruelty...none of it. It means seeing people as eternal sons and daughters of God upon their acceptance of Jesus. It means loving them as Christ would call us to love them. It means changing everything we know about the world.

So let’s look at verse 17 again, to summarize what that change...that shift in how we see people means:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Indeed, everything changes when Jesus enters the scene. The old passes away, and the new comes.

Having examined the effect of Jesus’ time on Earth and his sacrifice, it’s now important to look at the actual verses that talk about Jesus’ birth and detail the shepherds’ experiences.

These are the verses in which a baby changes everything.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Luke 2:8-14, 16, ESV

The world was never been the same. We no longer live for ourselves but for Him. We no longer follow rules but instead follow Him. And we live in freedom, knowing we’re forgiven and are tasked only with loving God and loving people.

What a wonderful change it is!

As we experience Christmas, let’s make sure we focus on the redemption and hope that accompanied Christ’s arrival on Earth. Let’s remember that something as small as a baby can indeed change everything.